By: Katie Hayes, RDN
WHY IS CHOLINE
Choline is an essential nutrient, meaning that we must
consume adequate amounts in the diet to achieve optimal health. Unfortunately,
most people do not consume enough choline. In fact, more than 90% of Americans
(including approximately 90% of pregnant women) fail to meet the adequate
foods offer choline in small amounts, however, only a few foods are significant
choline sources. Furthermore, most
multivitamin supplements contain little, if any, choline.
Fortunately, eggs are convenient, affordable, accessible, and an excellent
source of choline.
Beginning in fetal development, Choline is critical to good
health and remains essential throughout the lifespan. This vitamin-like nutrient
is important in many ways.
- During pregnancy, choline helps the baby’s brain and spinal cord develop properly and supports brain health throughout life.
- Infants and young children need choline for continued brain development and health.
- Choline is part of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is important for muscle control, memory and mood.2
- Choline is also important for the support membranes that surround your cells, the transportation of fats throughout the body and for liver health.
- New research is exploring how choline throughout life may have lasting effects on cognition and prevention of cognitive decline.3
HOW MUCH CHOLINE DO
The amount of choline an individual needs depends on many things, including age, gender and stage of life. Table 1 lists the current Adequate Intakes (AIs) for choline.2
WHAT FOODS HAVE CHOLINE?
People of all ages need adequate choline for good health, but very few consume enough through food and supplements. While many foods contain some choline, only a handful of foods are considered good or excellent sources. Fortunately, two large eggs (about 300mg of choline) contain more than half of the recommended intake for pregnant women and can help them meet their needs. Table 2 lists food sources of choline.2
CHOLINE & COGNITION
a role in early brain development during pregnancy and infancy, particularly in
areas of the brain that are used for memory and learning. There is evidence that infants exposed to
higher levels of maternal choline (930 mg/day) during the third trimester have
improved information processing speed during the first year of life, an
indicator of cognitive function.4
Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates recommended the addition of
choline to prenatal vitamins because of its essentiality in promoting cognitive
development of the offspring.5 This recommendation from AMA
highlights the increased recognition of choline as a nutrient of concern. The
2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) also list choline as a
nutrient under consumed by most Americans. The DGAs recommend individuals shift
to healthier eating patterns to help meet nutrient needs, including choline.6
more information about choline?
- Wallace TC, Fulgoni VL III. Assessment of
total choline intakes in the United States. J Am Coll Nutr 2016, 35(2),
- National Institutes of Health. Fact Sheet for
Health Professionals: Choline. Version current 26 September 2018. ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/Accessed
June 22, 2020.
- Wallace TC. A comprehensive review of eggs,
choline, and lutein on cognition across the life-span. J Am Coll Nutr 2018,
- Caudill MA, et al. Maternal choline
supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant
information processing speed: a randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding
study. FASEB J. 2018;32:2172-2180.
- AMA Wire. AMA backs global health experts in
calling infertility a disease. https://wire.ama-assn.org/ama-news/ama-backs-global-health-experts-calling-infertility-disease
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of
Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition.
December 2015. Available at