Choline

Other Name(s):

choline bitartrate, choline chloride, choline dihydrogen

General Description:

Choline is a water-soluble component of many important chemicals within the body. Although not all choline functions and interactions are known, it is believed that choline is necessary for normal liver and kidney function. Choline is also a component of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a chemical that passes messages between nerves, and between nerves and muscles.

Choline is also the building block of lecithin and sphingomyelins. Lecithin is a major component of cell walls, plasma and lipoproteins. Sphingomyelin is the insulating material of brain and nerve tissue.

Medically Valid Uses:

Most people obtain sufficient choline from their diet. Because deficiency occurs only under unusual circumstances, use of choline supplements is limited. Choline currently does not have a well-established use as a supplement in healthy individuals.

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Choline supplements have been suggested for the treatment of certain neurological disorders associated with the cholinergic system, but studies have demonstrated that oral supplements of choline do not effect brain metabolism.

Choline is claimed to be useful in the treatment of:

In addition, choline supplements have been reported to reduce cholesterol, control mood swings, protect the liver from damage attributed to alcohol, decrease blood pressure, improve memory and treat Alzheimer's disease. Choline is also claimed to increase athletic performance.

Recommended Intake:

The usual supplementary dose is 650 mg to 2 g. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) maximum is 550 mg daily. Choline is available in tablet, capsule or powder form.

Foods containing choline include egg yolks, soybean, wheat germ, peanuts and liver.

Although not yet demonstrated in humans, choline deficiency in animals may lead to abnormal liver function and kidney damage. Choline-associated liver dysfunction has led to liver cancer in laboratory animals.

People being fed intravenously may develop low serum levels of choline and require choline supplements.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

Choline in normal doses may cause stomachache, diarrhea or loose stools. Large quantities (~20 g) have been associated with dizziness, hypotension, fishy body odor, depression and electrocardiographic abnormalities.

Choline may cause depression in some patients. Choline should not be used by people with bipolar disorder.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician before taking any dietary supplements.

There are no known interactions between choline and any food or drug. Low serum folate levels (insufficient folic acid) may increase the requirements for choline.

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.

References:

  1. Oakley GP Jr. Eat right and take a multivitamin. N Engl J Med 1998;338(15):1060-61.

  2. Claus EP, Tyler VE Jr. Pharmacognosy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lea & Febiger; 1965.

  3. Behrman RE, Kliegman RM, Nelson EE, Vaughan VC, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Co.; 1992.

  4. Braunwald E, Isselbacher KJ, Petersdorf RG, Wilson JD, Martin JB, Fauci AS, eds. Harrison's Principals of Internal Medicine. 11th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1987.

  5. Lide DR, Frederikse HPR, eds. Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. 75th ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Inc.; 1994.

  6. Fischbach F, Stead L, Andrus S, Deitch S, eds. A Manual of Laboratory & Diagnostic Tests. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott-Raven Publishers; 1996.

  7. Loeb S, Cahill M, et al., eds. Diagnostic Tests (Nurse's Ready Reference). Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corporation; 1991.

  8. Lecithin. The Complete German Commission E Monographs, Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Austin, TX: The American Botanical Council; 1998.

  9. Lecithin. The Complete Book of Natural and Medicinal Cures. New York, NY: Berkeley Books; 1996.

  10. Tan J, Bluml S, Hoang T, Dubowitz D, Mevenkamp G, Ross B. Lack of effect of oral choline supplement on the concentrations of choline metabolites in human brain. Magn Reson Med. 1998;39(6):1005-10.

  11. Misra S, Ahn C, Ament ME, et al. Plasma choline concentrations in children requiring long-term home parenteral nutrition: a case control study [In Process Citation]. J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1999;23(5):305-8.

  12. Jacob RA, Jenden DJ, Allman-Farinelli MA, Swendseid ME. Folate nutriture alters choline status of women and men fed low choline diets. J Nutr. 1999;129(3):712-7.

  13. Albright CD, Liu R, Mar MH, et al. Diet, apoptosis, and carcinogenesis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1997;422:97-107.

  14. Savendahl L, Mar MH, Underwood LE, Zeisel SH. Prolonged fasting in humans results in diminished plasma choline concentrations but does not cause liver dysfunction. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;66(3):622-5.

  15. Zeisel SH. Choline: essential for brain development and function. Adv Pediatr. 1997;44:263-95.

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