Choline is the precursor of one of the most important neurotransmitters: acetyl-choline. In addition, thanks to some metabolic pathways, choline can transform into trimethylglycine (TMG), which is a molecule that prevents cardiovascular and hepatic diseases. Even though it is a substance that is needed in very low amounts, a choline deficiency is associated to neural problems (cognitive degeneration), which is the reason why many people use it as a supplement for memory.
Choline (trimethyl-ethanolamine) is an alcohol and quaternary ammonium salt, with similar properties to those of vitamins.
It was discovered in 1864 by the chemist Friedrich Ludwig Adolph Strecker and two years later, he was able to produce it synthetically from amino and ethanol, through methylation.
Choline is an essential nutrient that is hydro-soluble, similar to vitamins, and it is contained in many foods. Its function is similar to that of vitamin b12 and it is a component of lecithin and of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
The body can only produce choline in small amounts.
But in order to do this, you need to have an appropriate supply of amino acids, especially of lysine and methionine, of the vitamin B enzyme carriers, specially vitamin b12 and folic acid, which is quite rare.
Although the body generates choline through our diet, this is the reason why it never meets the amount we actually require, which is why it is advisable to take care of this deficiency through supplementation. Choline operates similarly to a vitamin.
It is a fatty substance that forms part of all the cells in the body and it is essential for the maintenance of our health.
It is often called a "fat burner" because it helps to reduce fat and ensures that it remains in a liquid state and does not accumulate in the organs or blood vessels.
It provides essential fatty acids to the cells at the same time and plays an important role in the structure and functioning of the signals of cell membranes.
Functions of choline
The role of choline in the body is very complex, since it can be metabolised along with other compounds.
It may also be produced in the liver by the phosphatidylethanolamine enzyme.
Some examples of the function of choline in the metabolism are:
It produces acetylcholine in combination with acetic acid, an important neurotransmitter
Choline is a phosphorylate or phosphocholine, a basic element of phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholine, that form cell membranes and that are essential for the transmission of signals within them.
It participates in the formation of acetylcholine receptors.
It is involved in the transport of lipids.
When it oxidises, it becomes betaine, important for the metabolism of methyl (a reduction of homocysteine).
It plays an important role in the metabolism of fat and other metabolic reactions and detoxification.
Properties and benefits of choline
Choline helps with the proper functioning of nerve signals and memory. Acetylcholine controls mood, emotions, and behaviour. The transmission of muscle stimuli needs acetylcholine, which is the reason why it is involved in vital functions such as breathing, the beating of the heart, blood pressure control, or metabolic processes in general.
Myelin is a substance that protects the nerves. It is important for the synthesis of myelin and, therefore, for the protection of the nervous system.
Choline is involved in the synthesis of several hormones and enzymes, like melatonin. In addition, it intervenes in the metabolism of creatine.
It is responsible for the transport of fat (triglycerides) from the liver to the areas of the body that need it. Without a sufficient amount of choline this vital process is interrupted and the liver accumulates fat deposits. From that moment onwards, it can no longer correctly perform the detoxification of the body and its functions are limited.
Choline reduces the symptoms of asthma.
Regarding sports and physical performance, choline improves the muscle function and helps to improve mental energy, focus, and concentration. It can reduce the response time for the processing of movement during physical exercise.
Another property is that it promotes the detoxification of chemical products and pollutants and helps to purge the remnants of heavy metals, as well as alcohol and drugs.
Choline helps with the metabolism of fat and with the transport of triglycerides and other fats to the tissues. Choline prevents the breakdown of fat and reduces, along with methionine, possible liver damage.
During pregnancy there is a greater demand of choline, since its deficiency may cause fat deposits in the liver.
It is necessary for the proper functioning of the brain. Lecithin and choline increase the levels of acetylcholine in the brain, help to improve the memory, and prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, which occur with low levels of acetylcholine. Due to its function as a neurotransmitter, choline has a relaxant function and reduces stress.
It prevents nervous system and movement disorders caused by acetylcholine irregularities in the brain. It also prevents the development of gallstones.
Choline forms part of the structure of cell walls in the whole organism and protects nerve cells, the brain and the bone marrow.
Other benefits of choline consist on reducing the level of bad cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing HDL good cholesterol and avoiding deposits in the form of gallstones.
Choline reduces the risk of suffering atherosclerosis.
Another of its beneficial effects consists on regulating blood pressure levels. In addition, Choline also strengthens the walls of the capillaries and helps with the treatment of tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Choline deficiency. Health hazards
A deficiency of choline in the body can cause all kinds of problems for our health.
Clinical studies have shown that choline is important for the healthy development of the fetus.
Low levels of choline during pregnancy can lead to an increase in the level of homocysteine and result in premature birth, underweight babies, preeclampsia, memory and growth problems, learning disorders, and nerve cell deficiencies.
One of the most serious consequences of a lack of choline in the body is the risk of developing a fatty liver, which can cause serious damage and increase the risk of developing cancer in this organ.
A choline deficiency leads to the alteration of the renal function and, consequently, to high blood pressure.
Nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) can also be developed.
A choline deficiency also triggers a decrease in the production of red blood cells, atherosclerosis, and sterility. A lack of choline produces a decrease of estrogens in women, which may signal the beginning of menopause.
A clinical study carried out on 51 participants in 2016 showed that a lack of choline in the body can cause DNA damage and lymphocyte cell death. In this study it was found out that people with a choline deficiency suffered twice the DNA damage compared to those who had normal levels.
Another clinical study in 2016 showed that choline administered orally has anti-inflammatory properties and it may reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis
Natural sources of choline
Choline-rich foods include (concentration of choline in milligrams per 100 grams of food):
Egg yolk: 680
Beef liver: 418
Chicken liver: 290
Wheat germ: 152
Dried soy: 116
Other choline-rich foods are: cod, chicken, milk, soy lecithin, cauliflower, spinach, amaranth, quinoa, and beans.
People have different needs in terms of the daily requirements of choline throughout their lives. Additionally, each individual has genetic characteristics that dictate a greater or lesser need for this nutrient.
It is very difficult to obtain an adequate supply uniquely and exclusively through food. For this reason, in addition to taking care of our diet, providing choline through dietary supplements is also recommended to prevent an essential nutrient deficiency in the organism.
Recommended intake of choline
The recommended daily intake of choline is 550 milligrams for men, and 425 milligrams for women.
Choline should be consumed together with food if we want to obtain its maximum effects.
During pregnancy and lactation, the need for choline rises slightly, so you can increase the intake to 550 milligrams for women who find themselves in this situation.
This dose is an approximation for people who are healthy. It is recommended to read the product information and consuming the recommended amount is advised in all cases.
In general, the maximum intake can never exceed 3.5 grams per day.
How to consume choline
Choline is usually consumed with inositol, which is considered a "group b pseudovitamin" which is essential for the physical and mental function.
The recommended daily intake of inositol is the same as the one of choline: approximately 500mg per day.
Inositol, which is one of the main elements of the cell membrane, is very important in all the tissues of our body. It is essential for the correct metabolism of lipids, it adjusts the levels of cholesterol, and prevents the accumulation of fat in the liver.
Like choline, inositol has a close relationship with the functioning of the brain, since it is very important for the synthesis of neurotransmitters (mainly acetylcholine and serotonin). Inositol helps to regulate people's moods and it provides cognitive support.
Does choline have any side effects?
A high consumption of choline, above 8-20 g / day, may produce an unpleasant body odour, similar to that of rotten fish.
This odour disappears when the intake ceases. Also, an overdose of choline, above ten grams a day, can cause other symptoms, such as vomiting, increased salivation, and hypotension, associated with dizziness or sweating.
An excess of choline, above 3 grams per day, can also cause itching, tinnitus or, in rare cases, liver damage.
People suffering from trimethylaminuria congenital metabolic disorder (fishy smell syndrome) cannot process choline properly due to a deficiency of the enzyme trimethylamine, and therefore must be more careful when consuming it.
Who can benefit from choline supplements?
People who wish to protect and take care of their nerve and cognitive functions. It is very important to take care of memory, attention, and concentration. This is why its consumption is especially indicated during periods of great intellectual effort.
It is also very important that people over the age of 50 consume choline, since at that age the cognitive functions begin to deteriorate.
It supports a proper fat metabolism and liver health. Therefore people with metabolic disorders, obesity, high cholesterol, or liver problems such as fatty liver, can benefit from a supplementation with choline.
It is important for people with anxiety, who feel down, or who have sleep disturbances or mild depression, etc.
Athletes and active people, since it is beneficial for the maintenance of adequate energy levels and metabolism.
Where can I buy choline?
There are many online stores where you can buy choline supplements, and one of them is HSNstore.com. It has a wide range of choline products, and many of them also come with the ingredient inositol.
Choline, taken together with inositol is a combination that keeps the nerve cells in a proper condition. They are necessary for the metabolism of fat (mostly in the liver) and to reduce the levels of cholesterol.
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