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You Ask, I Answer: Choline

1B7796CD98BAE223AFF6643CFAF1A7What is choline?  Why is it good for us and which foods contain it?

— @Monica_San Diego, @noelty5
Via Twitter

I received these tweets soon after I tweeted that 90 percent of adults in the United States do not get sufficient amounts of choline in their diets.

Choline is an essential nutrient (‘essential’ meaning we must get it from food) that is often referred to as a “vitamin-like organic substance” that has a lot in common with the B vitamins (it is not, however, an out-and-out B vitamin).

Choline has a number of important functions, including:

  • Proper functioning of neurotransmitters
  • Overall liver and gallbladder health
  • Fetal neural and spinal development
  • Cell permeability (allowing cells to absorb fats adequately and excrete necessary metabolites)
  • Phospholipid synthesis (necessary for cellular structure)
  • Cardiovascular health (choline helps lower homocysteine levels; high homocysteine levels are a significant risk factor for heart disease)

As far as food sources go, these are your best bets:

  • Beef
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Egg yolk
  • Lentils
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Soy beans
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat germ
  • Salmon

Men should aim for 550 milligrams a day. Women, meanwhile, need to shoot for 425.

Multiple research studies have concluded that consistent, long-term deficiencies increase one’s risk of developing fatty liver, liver cancer, and heart disease.


One Comment

  1. Christine said on January 20th, 2010

    Hi Andy,

    I looked up bananas and they don’t seem to provide very many mg of choline (~15 mg per medium-sized banana). I noticed that egg and beef provide a lot. As a vegan, how can I get enough choline in my diet…without eating like, 55 bananas in a day? I read that soy lecithin has a lot of choline…but it seems kind of pointless to seek out this emulsifier just for the sake of eating choline, esp. when it’s found in a bunch of junky foods.


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