Updated: Jul 9, 2022
I hear some of you responding as my clients often reply, “What is choline? I’ve never heard of that.” Choline is a relatively recent addition to the list of required human vitamins. It is a water-soluble vitamin traditionally linked to the B-complex vitamins. It was originally believed that we made enough choline needed inside of our bodies, but the latest research on choline-depleted diets indicates that people need outside help from food to ensure that adequate amounts of choline are available to keep our bodies running well. According to the National Health and Nutrition Study, (NAHNES) 90% of adults, pregnant women and children are missing out on enough of this nutrient.
What does choline do and how does it contribute to our health? Choline plays an important role in the following:
• Structural Integrity of Cell Membranes:
It is key in the structure of human cell membranes.
• Metabolism & Liver Function:
Research has shown that choline deficiency results in Metabolic Syndrome, a condition which involves insulin resistance, elevated serum triglycerides, increased (serum) cholesterol and obesity. Choline deficiency in combination with a low-protein diet can contribute to fatty liver disease.
• Nervous System Activity & Development:
It is essential in the formation and development of the nervous system. It is involved in muscle function, memory and learning.
• Cancer Prevention & Anti-Inflammation:
Studies find that people whose diets are rich in choline have lower levels of inflammatory indicators. Additionally, studies indicate that people who eat a choline-deficient diet for as short as a month have been found to have a significant increase in DNA damage and cancer risk.
• Early Growth & Development:
Choline is particularly important for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding as this nutrient plays an important role in the fetal development of the brain and nervous system. Choline like so many other nutrients is best derived from the foods we include in our diet. To this point, in developing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, researchers have suggested to the Dietary Guideline Committee that they encourage the intake of choline-rich foods in the new guidelines. Foods rich in this nutrient include:
Dairy, Meat, Fish and Poultry such as eggs, liver, shrimp, scallops, salmon, cod, sardines, beef, chicken and turkey.
Vegetable choices include asparagus, broccoli, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard and spinach.
Legumes and seeds are also good sources of this nutrient; add soybeans, garbanzo, lima beans and lentils. Flaxseed and nuts too; however, seeds and nuts are high in fat, so make sure you enjoy the nuts and seeds in moderation.
Though choline has been shown to be lacking in many diets and creating deficiencies, the addition of choline rich foods to the diet has been found to resolve the effects of low levels of choline. When planning your meals, make sure that your daily meal plan includes a variety of foods. By making variety a priority, your food choices will pay off with health benefits.
Take Away: Choline has been labeled a shortfall nutrient. Include a variety of choline-rich foods in your daily diet to make sure you are fueling your body for optimum performance.
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