Choline is a recently discovered nutrient. It has various health benefits and should be included in the diet for optimum health. However, more than 90% of US population is deficient in this important nutrient. It’s not a vitamin or mineral, it is just considered a compound that is crucial for health. Our liver can make some of it, but most of it should be obtained from the diet. Choline is sometimes grouped with vitamin D complex, due to its similar functions and properties. It is a water soluble compound and has some very important functions in the body. Like liver functions, brain function, muscle movement and nerve functioning.
1. Functions of choline:
It serves many functions in the body. Some of them are listed below;
1. It plays a very important role in the manufacturing of fat for the cells that help in maintaining the structure and integrity of the cells.
2. It is also involved in the production of compounds that are needed for the cell messaging process.
3. It is also required for the transportation of cholesterol from the liver, without enough choline, cholesterol might start to accumulate in the liver.
4. Choline along with other vitamins like vitamin B12 and folate help in DNA synthesis.
5. It is also needed for the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is required for heart beat, memory, muscle movement and many other functions.
2. How much is needed?
The amount of choline needed, is hard to figure out yet due to the limited research on it and because of uncertain amounts of different foods. The amount needed for different people is also different depending on their genetic makeup, and gender.
However the recommendations made by Institute of medicine are given as follows:
1. 0 to 6 months old 125mg
2. 7 to 12 months: 150mg
3. 1 year to 3 years old: 200 mg per day
4. 4 years to 8 years old: 250mg
5. 9 years to 13 years 375mg per day.
6. 14 years to 18 years female: 400mg
7. 14 years to 19 years male: 500mg
8. Adult men 550mg
9. Adult women: 425mg.
However, it should be kept in mind that the needs of different individuals might vary depending on different factors. In one study of 26 men, 6 developed symptoms of choline deficiency even after getting the amounts recommended by the institute of medicine.
3. Choline deficiency:
Choline deficiency can have harmful effects on the liver. One study looked at the effects of following a low choline diet on different groups, it was seen that 77% of men, 80% of post menopausal women and 44% of pre menopausal women had liver and muscle damage after following that choline deficient diet. However, these symptoms started to disappear when the subjects started to get a choline rich diet. This is especially important for pregnant women, as its deficiency can lead to neural tube defects in the unborn baby.
One study found out that a diet rich in choline before conception, was associated with a lower risk of neural tube defects. Low choline intake might also increase other pregnancy complications like low birth weight, preeclampsia, premature birth etc. Although most Americans do not include it in their diet, the actual deficiency is yet rare.
4. People at risk of developing choline deficiency:
Although the actual deficiency is rare, there are individuals they are more likely to develop a choline deficiency.
1. Endurance athletes like those running marathons.
2. Those who consume high levels of alcohols, the chances of developing deficiency are more especially when the amount of choline being consumed is already low.
3. Post menopausal women, since estrogens help in the production of choline in the body, the dropping levels of estrogen during post menopause can increase choline deficiency.
4. Pregnant women require more choline probably because the unborn baby requires it too for the development.
5. Sources of choline:
The dietary sources of choline are:
1. Beef Liver
And remember that choline is important for memory, brain functioning, proper heart health and muscle functioning etc. So make sure to include choline as a part of a healthy balanced diet.
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