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Choline Diet

CHOLINE is required for the proper transmission of nerve impulses from the brain through the central nervous system. It is also needed for gall bladder regulation, liver function, lecithin formation, and cardiovascular health. It aids in hormone production and minimizes excess fat in the liver through fat and cholesterol metabolism. Without choline, brain function and memory are impaired. A deficiency may result in fatty buildup in the liver, as well as in cardiac symptoms, gastric ulcers, high blood pressure, an inability to digest fats, kidney and liver impairment, stunted growth, fatigue, insomnia, and unexplained tingling and numbness.

While neither a vitamin nor a mineral per se, Choline is an essential nutrient. It is now classified as the newest member of the B Vitamin family. It had its “Adequate Intake Levels” established for the first time by the National Academy of Sciences in 1998. Even though it has only recently been adopted into the official family of vitamins, choline has been the subject of nutritional investigations for 150 years.

Key research discoveries about choline came in the late 1930s, when scientists discovered that tissue from the pancreas contained a substance that could help prevent fatty build-up in the liver. This substance was named choline after the Greek word chole, which means bile. Since the 1930s, research has shown that choline is found not only in the pancreas and liver, but is also a component of every human cell.

Research has also shown that the naming of choline after the Greek word for bile was highly appropriate. Bile, which is made in our liver, has the primary job of making fat compatible with water, so that fat-based substances can get transported around the body in the water-based world of our blood. Choline has very similar fat-modifying effects in the membranes of our cells. The fat-modifying properties of choline allow our cell membranes to operate with greater flexibility in handling both water- and fat-soluble molecules. Without choline, many fat-based nutrients and waste products could not pass in and out of our cells.

In addition to its unique role as a fat-modifying substance, choline is chemically unique as a trimethylated molecule. The term methylated means that a substance has at least one special chemical group—called a methyl group—attached to it. Choline is trimethylated, meaning three methyl groups are attached. Many important chemical events in the body are made possible by the transfer of methyl groups from place to place. For instance, genes in the body can be turned on and turned off in this way, and cells often use this same process to send messages back and forth. In the area of brain and neurological health, where messages sent from nerve to nerve are especially critical, choline (which is supplemented in the form of lecithin) is now being studied for use in the treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Furthermore, people whose diets supply the highest average intake of choline and its metabolite betaine (found naturally in vegetables such as beets and spinach and in whole wheat) have levels of inflammatory markers at least 20% lower than subjects with the lowest average intakes. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a wide range of conditions including heart disease, osteoporosis, cognitive decline, and type-2 diabetes.

Nutritional Sources of Significant Amounts of Choline

Your body can make small amounts of choline from other nutrients, but you need to have reliable sources of choline in your diet to be at your best. Experts suggest that an adequate choline intake is 425 milligrams (mgs) a day for women and 550 mgs a day for men.

Beef Liver and Egg Yolks are the richest source of Choline. One large hard-boiled egg provides 112 mgs of choline—more than 25 percent of the daily adequate intake for women. Two eggs provide over 50% of the daily requirement. Other rich sources of Choline are:         Soybeans        Tofu                Meat (including bacon!)           Nuts (Almonds)         Legumes         Peanuts           Whole Milk    Butter             Whole-Grain Cereals                    Wild Salmon              Potatoes          Cauliflower    Lentils             Oats                Sesame Seeds                     Flax Seeds               Tomatoes        Bananas         Oranges          Barley             Ginseng Root

Choline in some animal and plant foods
3.5 ounces pan-fried beef   liver3.5 ounces lean beef 418 mg choline81 mg choline
Large hardboiled egg 112 mg choline
3 ounces codfish3 ounces wild salmon 72 mg choline56 mg choline
Half a pound of chicken 149 mg choline
1 cup of milk,   1% fat 43 mg choline
A tablespoon (8 g) soy lecithin About 250 mg choline
¾ cup of cooked cauliflower  & other cruciferous vegies1 cup of cooked Brussels   sprouts1 cup of broccoli 62 mg choline63 mg choline62 mg choline
½ cup of spinach 56 mg choline
2 ounces of wheat germ 26 mg choline
1 cup of firm tofu 71 mg choline
1 cup of cooked kidney beans½ cup cooked navy   beans 54 mg choline48 mg choline
1 cup of uncooked quinoa 119 mg choline
1 cup of uncooked amaranth 135 mg choline
1 grapefruit 19 mg choline
1 cup cooked brown rice 19 mg choline
1/2 cup of peanuts2 Tbls. peanut   butter 38 mg choline20 mg choline
½ cup of almonds 26 mg choline

Choline is susceptible to alteration by oxygen and heat. While maximizing choline content would not be a good reason to choose raw egg yolk over cooked egg yolk (due to the many safety risks involved with raw egg yolk), overcooking of foods high in choline should be avoided to help preserve choline content.

Multivitamins and prenatal supplements rarely provide even close to the recommended daily allowance of 425 milligrams for women and 550 milligrams for men. What’s worse, people have been discouraged from eating many of the foods that contain the greatest amounts of choline (beef, eggs, liver, bacon, etc.) due to misinformation on the relationship between these foods and cholesterol. If you think you’re unlikely to get enough of this nutrient in your typical menu plan, think about adding a choline supplement to your daily routine. In the future, we may learn that choline is as vital to good health as folic acid and Vitamin D.

Lecithin (phosphatidylcholine)—usually extracted in the commercial marketplace from soybeanis the most common and powerful form of supplemental choline. Choline itself is also widely available in the form of choline bitartrate. Lecithin is a generic term to designate any group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues, and in egg yolk. Lecithin is sold as a food supplement and for medical uses. In cooking, it is often used as an emulsifier and to prevent sticking, such as in non-stick cooking sprays.


1. Becki - 05/08/2012

Ahhhhh. No kidding. I had a cobb salad from a place near my work and CRAVED it for a few days – it had hard boiled eggs and spinach. Couldn’t figure the connection. Bacon seemed to be another thing I “needed.” Nitrates? Surrrre. 🙂 Good reading. You’re always educating me. 🙂

thetickthatbitme - 05/08/2012

As always, I’m grateful to have such great readers 🙂 Yeah, enjoy your eggs, spinach, and bacon–they’re good for you! And if you feel bad about the bacon, turkey bacon also has choline–about 11 mg per ounce.

2. food, health and happiness - 07/29/2012

i love love love this information about choline. thank you for making it so clear and easy to understand. i have been wondering about choline for a while and you have a bunch of good clear info all in one place. i especially appreciate it when you wrote:

“What’s worse, people have been discouraged from eating many of the foods that contain the greatest amounts of choline (beef, eggs, liver, bacon, etc.) due to misinformation on the relationship between these foods and cholesterol.”

3. Normal is the New Weird - 03/09/2013

This is really good information. I’m still chasing a diagnosis for my current situation (I’m still on the fence about re-visiting more lyme treatment… ughh such an emotional rollercoaster), but thinking more about what I CAN control is helpful. I’ve been doing a lot of research on diet, and there’s just so much conflicting information, it’s hard to figure out what’s best to try. I’ve done a tiny bit of research on choline, but I had forgotten about it. Finding this post was a good reminder. Keep up the great posts!

thetickthatbitme - 03/11/2013

Thanks Ava! I agree with you that thinking about what we can control is a good strategy. I like the choline diet because it’s based around simple foods that are easy to prepare, and I haven’t had to give up the things I really love, like milk, bread, and chocolate. So far it’s working really well for me; I definitely feel more “with-it” on days when I get my eggs and green veggies.

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