Choline OverviewCholine is a water soluble essential nutrient that has extreme importance for the health of cell membranes. It is an essential part of every person’s diet because it is the precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter is responsible for memory and muscle control yet some studies show that 10% or less of the population consumes adequate choline. Although the body synthesizes some of the choline that it needs, the diet provides the substantial amount required for health.
Choline and Cognitive PerformanceCholine alone has the power to impact cognitive ability greatly as evidenced by a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011. The study of 1400 healthy subjects over 4 years tested verbal memory, visual memory, and verbal learning over time. It also measured white-matter hyperintensity and brain atrophy, which are both associated with memory issues and impaired cognitive function.Verbal and visual memory tested far better with higher choline intake. Conversely, white-matter hyperintensity (associated with cognitive decline) was inversely correlated with high choline consumption. Higher choline intake is “related to better cognitive performance”.
Types and Sources of CholineThere are many types of choline that your body can utilize as a precursor for acetylcholine production. Each has varying strength and advantages / disadvantages. Understanding the interaction between each choline type can influence your diet and other decisions.LecithinThis source of choline is one of the most common yet least impactful. Foods like eggs and soy products are filled with lecithin. Even processed foods like chocolate have lecithin added, but choline content is low. As the weakest form of choline, lecithin may not provide enhanced cognitive abilities or prevent neuro degeneration similar to other sources. Supplementing with lecithin typically requires higher dosages to significantly increase acetylcholine levels.Citicoline (CDP-Choline)CDP-choline is a more efficient source for providing the acetylcholine precursor. Alone, the CDP-choline has showed great efficacy in solving cognitive decline in elderly patients with memory issues. The neuroprotective actions of CDP-choline, along with the ease of passing the blood-brain barrier, makes this an efficient source of choline. Improved learning and memory, along with increased noradrenaline and dopamine levels, make CDP-choline a useful / powerful supplementation for brain health.L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha GPC)The Alpha GPC form of choline is one of the most potent. It can be found in the brain and in dairy products, but is typically produced synthetically by purifying soy lecithin. Like, CDP-choline, daily supplementation of Alpha GPC need not be high. It is used to enhance memory and learning for memory issues.Choline BitartrateThe choline bitartrate “choline salts” are one of the cheapest sources of choline. It is a weaker choline source than CDP-choline or Alpha GPC, but still provides effective cognitive enhancement if dosed properly.
Food Sources of CholineEnsuring adequate choline consumption does not require supplementation if you are prepared to eat certain foods that are rich in this essential nutrient. Plenty of food sources provide choline, but consuming these foods daily can cause other health concerns. Here are some of the best known foods that contain choline along with some efficient sources you may have never thought of.1. Egg yolks (egg whites do not have high concentrations of choline)2. Liver – beef, chicken and turkey liver are all good sources of choline. Beef is the best.3. Turkey heart is a good source of choline4. Milk / dairy products – lower fat content increases cholineRarer efficient choline sources1. Any caribou meat (don’t ask where to get it!)2. Of grains, quinoa and amaranth have the most choline3. Bacon4. Edamame and cruciferous vegetables are the best vegetable sources, but still don’t provide much compared with any animal source
Supplementation Doses for CholinePeople who don’t consume enough choline often have a cognitive disadvantage when it comes to learning and recalling memories. Long term brain health can be compromised by chronic lack of choline. Those who are willing to change their diet should include more foods that are high in choline, such as eggs and organs from animals. Organ meats can be found at the local farmer’s market, but if you are feeling a bit squeamish, use dairy products like milk instead (low fat milk has more choline).For vegetarians and vegans, consuming enough choline can be a near impossible task. Unless committed to a diet very high in cruciferous vegetables, most vegetarians / vegans will not get adequate choline for good health.You can find normal recommended doses based on gender, age, and other factors.0 – 3,500 mg Choline Bitartrate per dayRecommended starting point: 650 mg in the morning0 – 750 mg Citicoline (CDP-Choline) per dayRecommended starting point: 250 mg in the morning0 – 900 mg L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha GPC, choline alfoscerate) per dayRecommended starting point: 300 mg in the morning0 – 7,500 mg Lecithin per dayRecommended starting point: 2,500 mg in the morning or at night