Choline: Food sources, Benefits, Side Effects & Deficiency

Should You Boost Your Choline?

Choline: Food sources, Benefits, Side Effects & Deficiency

Choline is a vitamin- nutrient, and in health-food stores and on the Internet many claims are made for its potential benefits.

The National Academy of Sciences designated choline as “essential” and suggested specific daily intakes in 1998. It’s called “essential” because, though the liver manufactures some choline, most people need to get it from foods to stay healthy. Many foods supply it, with egg yolks, liver, and meat being the best sources (see below for others).

Choline is also a key component of lecithin (phosphatidylcholine), a fat- substance found in our cells and sold as a diet­ary supplement. Because lecithin is an emulsifier—that is, it helps disperse fat particles in water and keeps them from separating—small amounts (derived from soy or eggs) are often added to foods such as ice cream, chocolate, and margarine to provide texture.

Choline claims: yes, no, maybe

  • Related to the B vitamins, such as folate and B12, choline plays many essential roles in the body. Notably, it is needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter, as well as lecithin, which helps maintain cell membranes, transmit nerve impulses, process fat and cholesterol, and perform other tasks.
  • Choline is essential for brain development in the fetus. Some studies have found that lab animals exposed to supplemental choline before birth have better brain function as they age. There’s also some evidence that people who consume lots of choline very early in life may be more ly to retain mental abilities as they age. Human milk supplies choline; infant formula is fortified with it.
  • Pregnant women with a low blood level or intake of choline are at higher risk for having children with neural tube defects.
  • Choline and lecithin, it's claimed, reduce blood cholesterol and heart disease. But studies have yielded inconsistent results, and some have actually found that they can boost LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and trigylcerides.
  • It’s often claimed that choline or lecithin supplements help prevent memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and various neurological disorders, but evidence is lacking. Studies in which older people or older lab animals were given extra choline have not found cognitive benefits.
  • They are also promoted as a treatment for liver disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV/AIDS, and as a way to build muscle. The clinical evidence is weak or nonexistent.

Stick to eggs and other foods

The recommended daily intake for choline is 425 milligrams for women, 450 for pregnant women, and 550 for men and breastfeeding women. A balanced diet should supply enough choline for most people, though strict vegetarians and older people tend to get less.

Pregnant and nursing women should make sure they consume choline-rich foods (rather than choline supplements). Some multivitamins contain small amounts. You don’t need supplements of choline or lecithin. Very high doses can cause low blood pressure, nausea, gastrointestinal upset, abnormal results on liver function tests, and a fishy body odor.

Good sources of choline: beef liver (4 oz) 470 mg; egg yolk (extra large) 145; beef or pork (4 oz) 125; chicken or turkey (4 oz) 95; shrimp (4 oz) 90; salmon or sardines (4 oz) 75; broccoli or Brussels sprouts (1 cup) 63; soy milk (1 cup) 58; cauliflower (1 cup) 48; milk (1 cup) 40; navy or baked beans (½ cup) 40; wheat germ (2 tbsp) 26; peanut butter (2 oz) 20.


What is choline? Benefits, deficiency, and sources

Choline: Food sources, Benefits, Side Effects & Deficiency

  • About
  • Benefits
  • Deficiency
  • Sources
  • Testing
  • Summary

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Choline is a nutrient that supports various bodily functions, including cellular growth and metabolism. The body makes some choline, but the majority comes from dietary sources.

In 1998, the Institute of Medicine officially recognized choline as an essential nutrient. However, some research suggests that most people do not get enough of it.

Continue reading this article to learn more about choline, including the recommended daily intake, its sources, and how it can benefit people’s overall health.

Share on PinterestNuts and seeds are good sources of choline.

Choline is an essential nutrient that supports vital bodily functions and people’s overall health. Although the body makes some choline, people need to incorporate choline-rich foods into their diet to get enough of it.

Choline supports numerous vital bodily functions, including:

  • Cell maintenance: The body uses choline to produce fats that make up cellular membranes.
  • DNA synthesis: Choline, along with other nutrients such as folate and vitamin B-12, can affect gene expression.
  • Metabolism: Choline helps metabolize fats.
  • Nervous system functioning: The body converts choline into a neurotransmitter that affects the nerves and plays a role in regulating automatic bodily functions, such as breathing and heart rate.

Choline exists as both water-soluble and fat-soluble molecules. The body transports and absorbs choline differently depending on its form.

Water-soluble choline molecules go to the liver, where the body converts them into a type of fat called lecithin.

Fat-soluble choline usually comes from dietary sources, so the body absorbs it in the gastrointestinal tract.

Choline supports several vital bodily functions and may offer a wide range of other health benefits, such as:

Improving memory and cognition

Choline is an essential nutrient for brain development.

In one observational study of 2,195 participants aged 70–74 years, those with higher choline levels had better cognitive functioning than participants with low choline levels.

Another observational study from 2019 found that inadequate levels of choline, vitamin C, and zinc were associated with poorer working memory in older men.

Protecting heart health

The authors of a 2018 study found an association between higher dietary intakes of choline and a lower risk of ischemic stroke.

The study looked at nearly 4,000 African American participants, with an average 9 year follow-up period.

Boosting metabolism

Some research has shown that choline plays a role in metabolizing fats.

The authors of a small 2014 study found that female athletes who took choline supplements had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) and leptin levels than the control group. Leptin is a hormone that controls body fat.

Reducing the risk of pregnancy complications

Choline can affect fetal development and may influence pregnancy outcomes. In one 2013 study, for example, women in their third trimester of pregnancy received either 480 milligrams (mg) or 930 mg of choline per day.

Those who took higher doses had reduced markers of preeclampsia. Symptoms of preeclampsia include high blood pressure, swelling, and severe headaches.

Improving cystic fibrosis symptoms

One 2018 study found that choline supplementation improved lung function and reduced symptoms of fatty liver disease in 10 adult males with cystic fibrosis.

The precise amount of choline a person needs depends on the following factors:

  • pregnancy or lactation
  • biological sex
  • genetics
  • age

The following table lists the estimated adequate intakes (AI) for choline age, biological sex, and pregnancy and lactation status:

Daily AI for choline
0–1 year125–150 mg/day125–150 mg/day
1–3 years200 mg/day200 mg/day
4–8 years250 mg/day250 mg/day
9–13 years375 mg/day375 mg/day
14–19+ years550 mg/day400–425 mg/day450 mg/day550 mg/day

However, most people do not meet the recommended AIs for choline.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, males aged 20–59 consume an average of 406–421 mg of choline per day, while females in the same age group consume around 290–303 mg per day.

Pregnant women, those who are lactating, and people who have genetic alterations that increase the body’s demand for choline may also have a higher risk of choline deficiency.

Although some people believe that vegetarians and vegans may be at risk of choline deficiencies, there is only mixed evidence to support this.

In fact, some of the foods with the highest choline content include soybeans, potatoes, and mushrooms. Eating a nutritious diet that focuses on whole foods should be enough to prevent deficiency.

Choline deficiency can contribute to the following health conditions:

Although choline deficiencies can lead to adverse health effects, too much choline can also cause problems, including:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide the following upper intake levels for choline age:

  • children aged 1–8: 1 gram (g) per day
  • children aged 9–13: 2 g per day
  • teenagers aged 14–18: 3 g per day
  • adults aged 19 or older: 3.5 g per day

People can get choline from various dietary sources. Infants require lots of choline during the first few months of life, most of which they get from breast milk or fortified formula.

After infanthood, most people get choline from their diet.

Dietary sources of choline include:

  • proteins, such as beef, soybeans, fish, poultry, and eggs
  • vegetables, including broccoli, potatoes, and mushrooms
  • whole grains, such as quinoa, rice, and whole wheat bread
  • nuts and seeds

Some multivitamins and dietary supplements, as well as prepackaged and fortified foods, may contain choline in the form of lecithin.

People can also find supplements that contain only choline. The exact amount of available choline varies, so it is vital that people read labels before taking any dietary supplements.

Choline supplements are available in pharmacies, health food stores, and online.

Healthcare professionals can test a person’s choline levels by taking a blood sample and looking at how much choline is present.

However, the authors of one 2018 article state that different testing procedures can affect the choline concentration in blood samples.

For this reason, blood tests may not be a good indicator of whether or not a person is getting enough choline.

Choline is an essential nutrient that regulates vital bodily functions, such as forming cell membranes and aiding communication between neurons.

The body does not produce enough choline on its own, so people need to get it from food sources, such as meat, eggs, and vegetables.

Current scientific studies suggest that choline may improve memory and cognition and reduce the risk of ischemic stroke.

Choline supports brain development and growth in newborn babies. Research also suggests that choline may reduce the risk of preeclampsia and congenital irregularities.

Though the recommended intake for choline is relatively low (125–550 mg per day), most people do not get enough.

Choline deficiency can cause muscle and liver disease and contribute to cardiovascular disease, dementia, and neural tube irregularities in infants.

  • Cardiovascular / Cardiology
  • Neurology / Neuroscience
  • Nutrition / Diet


Choline Deficiency Is a Thing. Here’s Why You Need It

Choline: Food sources, Benefits, Side Effects & Deficiency

  • If you’ve ever experienced brain fog, muscle twitching, trouble with attention or learning, unpredictable moods, or nerve tingling, you might need more choline.
  • Choline is a nutrient that your body makes, and you have to get it from outside sources to meet your needs.
  • Choline helps babies develop, it keeps your cell membranes strong, it helps you use fat, and helps you get energy your food, among other important functions.
  • Choline deficiency can lead to problems mood disorders, poor memory and learning, muscle spasms, and fatty liver disease.
  • Keep reading to find out what choline does, the best choline foods, and whether or not you need a choline supplement.

When my wife Lana and I were ready to become parents, we did tons of research on pregnancy and early childhood.

I wanted to give my kids the best start, and I especially wanted to make sure that their brains would grow as strong as they possibly could. The fastest growth phase the brain goes through happens from conception through age 3.

The baby and toddler years are the critical period to give your child the nutrients and energy that the brain needs for development. That’s when I started paying attention to choline, since choline is vital to early brain development.[1]

The more I read about it, the more I understood that it’s for grown-ups, too — for things muscle control, metabolism, liver health and so much more.

If you’ve ever experienced brain fog, muscle twitching, trouble with attention or learning, unpredictable moods, or nerve tingling, you might need more choline. Keep reading to find out what choline does, and whether or not you need a choline supplement.

Instantly download the Bulletproof Food Roadmap, your cheat-sheet to foods that will make every cell in your body stronger, head to toe. 

What is choline?

You could say that choline has a history of an identity crisis.

Is choline essential? Until recently, choline was considered a non-essential nutrient because the human body makes it. Since the late 1990s, researchers have agreed that choline is an essential nutrient because you don’t make enough to meet your needs, and you have to make up the difference with food or supplements.[2]

Is choline a vitamin? Choline’s activity is certainly vitamin- — it’s so similar to the B vitamins that manufacturers often include it in B complex formulas and prenatal vitamins. But, scientists haven’t officially labeled choline as a vitamin because researchers have not yet established deficiency criteria for humans.

So, what is choline? In short, it’s a nutrient that’s crucial to your body’s function, and you have to get it from outside sources to get enough.

What does choline do?

Choline is unique in that it is indispensable for many processes in the body that are seemingly unrelated to each other. Here are a few functions that involve choline:

Choline helps babies develop

Choline is involved in several vital body processes, starting with your development as a fetus. Prenatal vitamins usually contain choline because it is critical for healthy fetal development, especially the brain and nervous system.[3]

Choline grows strong cell membranes

Choline is a vital component of phospholipids, which make up cell membranes. You want strong cell membranes so that your cells are resistant to damage, and so that individual cells perform their functions more effectively.

Choline helps you use fat effectively

Another function of choline is fat transport. Choline has a crucial role in bringing fats the liver[4] for your body to use.

You need your body to be able to take fats the liver and send it into the bloodstream so that your body can use it for energy, to help absorb fat-soluble nutrients, and to make brain components such as myelin.

On the flipside, if fat stays in the liver, you end up with fatty liver disease, which can cause pain, enlargement of the liver, extreme fatigue, and toxic overload.

Choline and methylation

Choline is also involved in methylation, the part of metabolism that helps your body:

  • Produce and repair DNA
  • Detox
  • Regulate histamine
  • Support eye health
  • Fuel your cells

High-dose choline reduced DNA damage in men with methylation problems.[5]

Choline and muscle control

Choline is the building block for acetylcholine, a chemical messenger between your nerves and muscles that tells your muscles when to activate. Acetylcholine deficiency can have severe effects — for example, medicines that disrupt this pathway can cause muscle spasms, irregular heartbeat, and even paralysis.

Choline and the brain

Choline is a nootropic — a supplement that enhances cognitive function.

Since you use so much acetylcholine when you’re calculating, processing, and problem-solving, having enough choline means having the acetylcholine you need[6] for attention and focus.

[7] Bonus: more choline available to your brain means less brain inflammation, which is great for learning, memory, focus, and mood.[8]

How much choline do you need?

Choline needs vary from person-to-person, and how much you need depends on genetics, gender, and environmental factors.[9] The National Academy of Medicine, a non-profit that provides scientific and policy advice on human health, recommends:

Choline deficiency symptoms

You might be deficient in choline if you experience things :

  • Ongoing tiredness or fatigue
  • Reduced ability to think things through or problem solve
  • Difficulty picking up new information
  • Emotional swings or mood disorders
  • Memory trouble
  • Muscle aches
  • Nerve pain or tingling

Choline deficiency and fatty liver disease

Since choline has such a critical role in fat transport, when there’s not enough, fat can stagnate in the liver and cause fatty liver disease. Doctors were able to reverse TPN associated fatty liver disease (TPN stands for total parenteral nutrition, which means getting 100% of your nutrition by an IV drip) in patients just by adding 2g of choline to their feeding formula.

What foods are high in choline

You can supplement, but you can get the choline you need if you eat high-choline foods regularly. Make sure a variety of the following foods make it into your shopping cart every time:

  • Beef liver
  • Eggs
  • Beef
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • High-quality wild-caught fish and shellfish (tuna, salmon, scallop)
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Kiwifruit

Another source of choline is sunflower lecithin, which provides phosphatidylcholine that breaks down into choline. You can take sunflower lecithin in a capsule or blend the powder into smoothies, your Bulletproof Coffee, or mix it into your “Get Some Ice Cream” recipe.

How much choline is too much? You’re not ly to go overboard with food, but if you’re overdoing the choline supplements, you’ll know. Excess choline causes a buildup of trimethylamine, which makes your skin smell leftover salmon.

Make it a priority to get a minimum of 4-5 servings of high-choline foods per week, and before you supplement, check your combination supplements and nootropic stacks for choline on the nutrition label. You may be taking choline already without realizing it.

Read next: Brain Food: 5 Nutrients That Upgrade Your Mind

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The Benefits of Choline

Choline: Food sources, Benefits, Side Effects & Deficiency

Tarik Kizilkaya/Getty Images

Choline is a B vitamin and an essential nutrient.

Choline plays an important role in a number of biological processes, including fat and cholesterol transport, energy metabolism, and cell and nerve signaling.

In addition, choline is needed to produce acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in memory and muscle control, and phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, two structural components of cell membranes.

The body produces small amounts of choline, but choline must also be included in your diet in order to maintain health. Abundant in a number of foods, choline is also available in supplement form.

Here's a look at the research behind the health benefits of choline:

Studies suggest that choline is needed for the normal development of the brain and for memory enhancement. In an observational study, study participants with lower choline levels had poorer cognitive performance (measured by sensorimotor speed, executive function, perceptual speed, and global cognition) than participants with higher choline levels.

Although choline is sometimes said to enhance heart health, a large observational study published in Atherosclerosis in 2014 found no association between choline intake and risk of peripheral artery disease.

Not getting enough choline may harm your liver, according to a 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For the study, 57 adults were fed a diet containing 550 mg of choline daily for 10 days.

Next, the study members were fed a diet containing less than 50 mg of choline daily for up to 42 days.

Study results revealed that, when deprived of dietary choline, 77% of men, 80% of postmenopausal women, and 44% of premenopausal women developed fatty liver or muscle damage.

Choline may be necessary for the developing brain. In a 2010 report in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, for example, the author stated that increased consumption of choline-rich foods may be essential for women during pregnancy in order to ensure normal brain development in the fetus.

Choline supplementation may also help in the treatment of choline deficiency.
Choline deficiency may lead to increased levels of homocysteine (an amino acid linked to heart disease), according to a study. Choline deficiency may produce a number of symptoms, including:

  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • memory problems
  • muscle damage

In cases of severe choline deficiency, people may experience liver damage and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

When taken in high doses, choline can cause certain adverse effects, including nausea, body odor, vomiting, increased body temperature, sweating, excessive salivation, low blood pressure, and liver damage.

In a large observational study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016, researchers found that high levels of phosphatidylcholine intake (from foods such as eggs, red meat, and fish) were associated with increased mortality, especially in those with diabetes.

In addition, it's important to note that using choline supplements in place of standard care for a chronic condition may have serious health consequences.

Although a daily requirement for choline hasn't been established, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine's guidelines for adequate intake recommend adult women aim for 425 mg of choline per day and adult men aim for 550 mg per day.

Additionally, increasing choline intake to 450 mg per day during pregnancy and 550 mg per day during lactation is typically recommended.

The top dietary sources of choline in the United States include beef liver, eggs, beef, and soybeans. Other sources include fish, dairy products, chicken, mushrooms, potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, certain beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Here are some typical amounts found in common foods:

  • beef liver (356 mg per 3 ounces)
  • egg (147 mg choline per large egg)
  • beef top round (117 mg per 3 ounces)
  • chicken breast (72 mg per 3 ounces)
  • Atlantic cod (71 mg choline per 3 ounces)
  • Brussels sprouts (32 mg choline per 1/2 cup)
  • broccoli (31 mg choline per 1/2 cup)
  • milk 1% (43 mg choline per cup)
  • wheat germ (51 mg choline per ounce)

Widely available for purchase online, choline supplements can also be found in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Choline bitartrate (a type of choline salt), phosphatidylcholine supplements, and lecithin supplements are available in supplement form.

Most individuals can meet their daily choline needs through diet alone. If you're concerned about a possible choline deficiency, it's important to consult your physician.

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  1. Gibb AJ. Choline and acetylcholine: what a difference an acetate makes! J Physiol (Lond). 2017;595(4):1021-1022. doi:10.1113/JP273666

  2. Zeisel SH, Da Costa KA. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health. Nutr Rev. 2009;67(11):615-23. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x

  3. Nurk E, Refsum H, Bjelland I, et al. Plasma free choline, betaine and cognitive performance: the Hordaland Health Study. Br J Nutr. 2013;109(3):511-9. doi:10.1017/S0007114512001249

  4. Bertoia ML, Pai JK, Cooke JP, et al. Plasma homocysteine, dietary B vitamins, betaine, and choline and risk of peripheral artery disease. Atherosclerosis. 2014;235(1):94-101. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2014.04.010

  5. Fischer LM, Dacosta KA, Kwock L, et al. Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(5):1275-85. doi:10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1275

  6. Caudill MA. Pre- and postnatal health: evidence of increased choline needs. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(8):1198-206. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.05.009

  7. Da costa KA, Gaffney CE, Fischer LM, Zeisel SH. Choline deficiency in mice and humans is associated with increased plasma homocysteine concentration after a methionine load. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(2):440-4. doi:10.1093/ajcn.81.2.440

  8. Sherriff JL, O'Sullivan TA, Properzi C, Oddo JL, Adams LA. Choline, Its Potential Role in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, and the Case for Human and Bacterial Genes. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(1):5-13. doi:10.3945/an.114.007955

  9. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Choline. Updated July 9, 2019.

  10. Zheng Y, Li Y, Rimm EB, et al. Dietary phosphatidylcholine and risk of all-cause and cardiovascular-specific mortality among US women and men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;104(1):173-80. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.131771

  11. Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes and its Panel on Folate, Other B Vitamins, and Choline. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1998.

Additional Reading

  • Bertoia ML, Pai JK, Cooke JP, et al. Plasma homocysteine, dietary B vitamins, betaine, and choline and risk of peripheral artery disease. Atherosclerosis. 2014 Jul;235(1):94-101.
  • Caudill MA. Pre- and postnatal health: evidence of increased choline needs. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Aug;110(8):1198-206.
  • Fischer LM, daCosta KA, Kwock L, et al. Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1275-85.
  • Nurk E, Refsum H, Bjelland I, et al. Plasma free choline, betaine and cognitive performance: the Hordaland Health Study. Br J Nutr. 2013 Feb 14;109(3):511-9.
  • Zheng Y, Li Y, Rimm EB, et al. Dietary phosphatidylcholine and risk of all-cause and cardiovascular-specific mortality among US women and men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jul;104(1):173-80.


5 Ways to Get More Choline in Your Diet: Secret of Radiant Living

Choline: Food sources, Benefits, Side Effects & Deficiency

When it comes to choline, the evidence is clear: Americans simply aren’t getting enough of it in their diets.

Although woefully under-discussed, this essential nutrient is vital for the proper functioning of our cells and is absolutely critical for healthy growth and development- yet only 10% of the population is meeting the daily recommended intake.

So why haven’t you heard much about it? Unfortunately, choline was cast from the glamorous mainstream health scene with its unjustly disgraced partner-in-crime cholesterol, and it is just now starting to make it’s way back. Discover the power of this humble nutrient and reclaim choline-rich foods in the diet with 5 simple ideas.

What is Choline?

Choline is an essential water-soluble nutrient that is usually grouped in as part of the B-Vitamin complex.

Although not technically a vitamin by strict definition, this organic compound is required for life’s most quintessential functions, including basic cellular structure, nutrient transport and metabolism.

Although it is naturally synthesized in small amounts within the liver, a significant amount of choline must be consumed in the diet to maintain health.

Choline was first discovered in 1862 by a chemist by the name of Adolph Strecker, who demonstrated that this unique compound was an integral part of the egg yolk and began to grow awareness about its nutritional significance.

Yet with traditional animal foods eggs and organ meats falling vastly favor in the mid 20th century, it was not until 1998 that the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine finally ordained choline as an essential nutrient and established clear dietary recommendations.

  • Structural Integrity of Cell Membranes: Choline plays a role in the synthesis of phopholipids, phosphatidylcholine and sphinogomyelin, the key structural components of the human cell membrane.
  • Metabolism & Liver Function: Research has shown that choline deficiency quickly results in Metabolic Syndrome, a condition involving insulin resistance, elevated serum triglycerides, increased serum cholesterol and obesity. In combination with a low-protein diet, choline deficiency also contributes to fatty liver disease.
  • Nervous System Activity & Development: Choline is essential in the formation of the cholinergic neurons that make up portions of the brain, parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. It is also a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in muscle function, memory, and learning among other vital processes.
  • Cancer Prevention & Anti-Inflammatory: Studies consistently find that people with diets rich in choline have the lowest levels of inflammatory markers such as IL-6, TNF-alpha and C-reactive protein. Additionally, people that 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: It is particularly important for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding to eat choline-rich foods, as this nutrient plays an important role in the fetal development of the brain and nervous system. Deficiency in pregnancy has been linked to long-term learning disability and memory problems in offspring. Choline also naturally occurs in breast milk, as young children require a substantial amount to support the formation of the nervous system, which continues at a high rate into the fourth year of life. The presence of choline in breast milk is directly correlated to mom’s dietary intake however, so consuming appropriate foods should be a priority. If unable to  breastfeed, it is critical that babies receive a formula that contains natural choline such as the Nourishing Traditions Homemade Baby Formula.

Supplements vs. Foods

As is the case with virtually any popularized nutrient, you will find a plethora of different choline supplements parading around on health food store shelves.

The choline squeezed into pills and capsules and liquids however is usually in a form derived from soy lecithin, the questionable byproduct of the soy industry that is also used as an emulsifier in commercial baked goods and chocolate.

Although refined to be allegedly free of irritating allergenic soy proteins, this source of choline is not ideal- especially considering that 90% of soy is genetically modified and that the lecithin is often chemically extracted using harsh solvents hexane.

Unsurprisingly, choline is best obtained from pure whole foods in its synergistic form, where the full array of cofactors and complimentary nutrients are absorbed optimally.

The current daily dietary recommendation for choline, according to the IOM, is 425 mg daily for women and 550 mg daily for men- standards that put nearly all Americans in the deficient range.

Yet these modest values are just the minimum needed to prevent liver disease, and recent studies suggest that much higher intakes of choline have exceptional health benefits.

The ideal sources of choline are animal foods egg yolks and liver, which contain the most concentrated amounts of this nutrient and can be easily incorporated into the diet to meet requirements for health and wellness. Enjoy liberally of these choline-rich foods:

Pastured Eggs

Just one egg yolk contains about 115 mg of choline.

 In traditional cultures women ate 5-7 egg yolks daily during pregnancy! Pastured eggs should be included whenever possible, as they contain a superior nutrient profile.

Get creative with including egg yolks into your diet: add extras into scrambled eggs, enjoy in a homemade ice cream or custard, or include raw in your favorite superfood smoothie.

Beef Liver

5oz of raw liver contains 423 mg of choline. Liver should be grass-fed and from a reliable source. Try liver in a recipe from Nourishing Traditions, such as a pate or sautéed with onions and butter. If you are not keen on incorporating organ meats into your diet just yet, try dessicated liver in powder or capsule form.

Grass-Fed Raw Dairy

8oz of fresh milk, yogurt, and kefir contain about 40 mg of choline. Raw milk products preferable as they have not been subject to pasteurization, keeping fragile nutrients intact.

Soaked Nuts and Legumes

Legumes such as garbanzo beans, lima beans and lentils have about 70 mgs of choline per cup, while sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds have around 60 mgs of choline per cup.

 Nuts and legumes should be consumed in moderation however, as they do contain considerable amounts of anti-nutrients.

Seek animal foods as your primary source of choline, but augment with plant based sources as desired.

Cruciferous Veggies

Veggies from this group, including cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and broccoli, boast around 65 mg of choline per cup cooked. These vegetables are best enjoyed lightly steamed and with plenty of butter or grass-fed ghee to aid in nutrient assimilation.

Learn More:

The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet

The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care by Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S Cowan, MD

Choline Profile Oregon State University

Photo Raw Beef Liver by ryumu/Courtesy flickr


Best Choline Sources – Benefits & Properties Explained | Guide 2019

Choline: Food sources, Benefits, Side Effects & Deficiency

Choline is a vital nutrient that the body makes itself or is absorbed through food.

It used to be called a vitamin, and was named vitamin B4 ( adenine); now it is officially listed as a “vitamin- substance”.

But what are the best Sources for Choline?

Although produced in small quantities by the body, these are often insufficient, and dietary supplementation with choline-containing foods or choline supplements should be considered.

People who fast for long periods of time or who follow a strict diet plan may develop choline deficiency, the consequences of which are a loss of muscle, tumors, dementia, or fatty liver; however, this is extremely rare since choline is found in many foods.

Benefits of Choline

It is a precursor that is metabolized in the metabolism of the body into the neurotransmitter (transmitter of nerve signals) acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine plays a major role in cognitive functions such as memory formation, learning, concentration, and attention.

Otherwise, it is responsible for the control of blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat, and digestion in the autonomic nervous system.

In addition, it has great importance in brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s (= acetylcholine is broken down) or dementia.

History of Choline

It was discovered in 1849 by the German chemist Adolph Strecker in pig bile (hence the name: Greek chol� = bile).

It was first chemically synthesized in 1865 by pharmacologist Oscar Liebreich. Before it was discovered that its chemical structure was identical to choline, it was known as “Neurin” until 1899.

Only in 1998, it was classified by the Food and Nutrition Board (USA) as a “vital nutrient”.

Unfortunately, choline is largely unknown in Europe, few people know of the positive effect on thinking ability and natural body functions. Therefore, it is rarely recommended as a dietary supplement, and there is little information about the choline content of various foods.

Choline Sources

The assumption that the body makes enough choline by hand from other substances has been refuted only in recent years.

For adults, a daily intake of at least 425 – 550mg choline is recommended.

In high doses, choline inhibits brain malfunctions, e.g. headache or memory loss caused by Racetam.

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Choline Sources from Food

Choline also occurs in natural foods; Here is a list showing the corresponding choline content:

  • Hard boiled egg | 113mg Choline
  • Chicken Breast (220g) | 150mg Choline
  • Cod (220g) | 190mg Choline
  • Milk (1L) | 173mg Choline
  • Soybeans (100g, dry) | 116mg Choline
  • Spinach (450g) | 113mg Choline
  • Peanuts (146g = 1 cup) | 77mg Choline
  • Almonds (143g = 1 cup) | 74mg Choline
  • Broccoli (1 cup) | 62mg Choline
  • Pork (100g) | 104mg Choline
  • Butter (100g) | 19mg Choline
  • Feta cheese (100g) | 16mg Choline
  • Rice (100g) | 2mg Choline
  • Apple| 3mg Choline
  • Rye bread | 16mg Choline
  • Potato (100g) | 13mg Choline
  • Beef liver (100g) | 418mg Choline
  • Egg yolk (100g) | 820mg Choline

Food sources with high choline content:

Meat and fish dishes, eggs, milk, chocolate, soya, seeds, nuts, vegetables, herbs, and spices.

Choline Sources from Supplements

If you do not get enough choline from food, you can still resort to dietary supplements (in powder or capsule).

Choline supplementation may be worthwhile, even if the daily needs are met by food: the following forms of choline have other cognitive properties. That is why they are also called nootropics and can be found in many stacks.


Alpha-GPC is a phospholipid that occurs naturally in the brain and liver.

When the brain requires acetylcholine and the choline stores are empty, the phosphatidylcholine (PC) of the cell walls is converted to GPC choline.

The supplement form has a choline content of 40%.

It is a pure form of soy lecithin and can pass the blood-brain barrier completely – making it a more effective choline form.

Other benefits: It has no side effects and can be used to treat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dosage: 300-1200mg per day.

Other names: L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, ?-GPC, cholinal foscerate

In addition to its neuro function, an increased release of growth hormone (somatropin) was detected.

CDP-choline (citicoline)

Although CDP-choline has a low choline content (18%), it is an excellent choline source. It also occurs naturally in the body, it is produced by the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine, producing choline and cytidine.

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It has proven effective in the treatment of ADD and ischemic strokes. Otherwise, it can improve cognitive functions, such as e.g. Mindset and focus.

In addition to its nootropic properties, it is used for eye diseases such as cataracts.

Due to its high bioavailability, it is almost completely absorbed by the body.

Recommended daily dosage: 500mg

In addition, it is a 2-in-1 supplement because, in addition to choline, it contains the nucleoside uridine monophosphate.

Side effects are rare and are similar to those of other sources. Overdoses are associated with depression and diabetes.

Choline Bitartrate

Choline bitartrate is a cheap alternative, the choline content of which corresponds to about 40% of the total weight, ie in concrete terms: 1 g choline bitartrate corresponds to about 400 mg choline. It is advisable to check the proportion on the packaging because some manufacturers sell products with a poor mixing ratio (in some cases even less than 20%).

It is produced by the combination of choline and bitartrate.

Compared to other choline-rich supplements, this form does not appear to significantly increase the proportion in the brain, and is more ly to be compared to food-based choline forms (e.g., lecithin).

Recommended dosage: 500-1000mg daily.

At higher doses, side effects such as gastrointestinal upset and unpleasant body odor may occur.


Lecithin is derived from the soybean plant (soybeans) and has a high bioavailability (= is easily absorbed by the body). It provides the body with choline in the form of phosphatidylcholine, which is converted by the body into acetylcholine.

It is sometimes used in treatments for Alzheimer’s or dementia, although CDP-choline is equally effective here.

Daily dose: 400-800mg

Overdose may cause the same side effects as choline bitartrate.

Other names: phosphatidylcholine, lecithin, crude lecithin.

Which Choline Source is the Best?

If it is a question of money, choline bitartrate wins – it costs a lot less and is sufficient to compensate for any deficits.

But what is the best choline shape when money does not matter? Alpha-GPC or CDP choline?

Similarities between GPC and CDP:

  • Both increase the choline level of the brain.
  • Both contribute to acetylcholine and PC synthesis.
  • Both are naturally occurring choline intermediates.
  • Both promote the membrane fluidity of the cells.
  • Both increase acetylcholinesterase.
  • Both have been used successfully in the treatment of dementia.
  • However, CDP did slightly better.
  • Both showed improvements in the recovery of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors from rodents

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Differences between GPC and CDP:

  • GPC contains 40% choline, CDP only 18% – quite a big difference.
  • CDP is both uridine monophosphate supplement, as well as choline supplement.
  • CDP showed improvements in the restoration of dopamine receptors in rodents.
  • CDP appears to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which could be due to the increased density of dopamine receptors.
  • GPC increases the release of somatropin (growth hormone).

In one study, 120 participants with various degrees of dementia were given a daily dose of 1g (GPC or CDP) (90 days).

The researchers came to the following conclusion: Alpha-GPC has a greater impact on enhancing mental function, but both have been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms.

The disadvantage of the study: Both nootropics were administered intravenously. An oral application has not been tested. It is possible that GPC’s effect was enhanced by the injection, as it is normally not fully absorbed in the stomach.

Conclusion: Best Choline Source

Alpha-GPC and CDP-choline are great choline supplements that have little in their properties.

In addition to choline, CDP supplies the substance uridine monophosphate, which has a protective function on the brain. In addition, CDP increases the dopamine content in the brain.

GPC contains a greater amount of choline than CDP and may affect cognitive functions more. Otherwise, it is associated with increased secretion of the growth hormone somatropin.

My recommendation:

If the choline requirement of the body is already covered —> CDP choline

If you diet lacks choline —> Alpha-GPC

It is not wrong to test both forms, as the effect varies from person to person. If you’ve tested every nootropic for a few weeks, you’ll most ly notice what’s right for you.