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Posted on Tue, Jul 13, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.

Choline: How much do we need and why is it important?

By Melissa Gerharter MS, RD

Recently, choline has become of public interest, particularly with women who are pregnant or lactating. Let’s take a closer look at what this compound is and why it may be of interest to you.

Choline is a vitamin-like compound with important roles in neurotransmitter synthesis, cell membrane signaling, lipid transport and methyl group metabolism. More importantly, it may help decrease inflammation in the body and heart disease. Research has also shown that an increased intake of choline is associated with lower homocysteine levels. Increased homocysteine is associated with great risk for several chronic diseases and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive disease and bone fractures. High dietary intakes of choline have also been associated with decreased risk of breast cancer.

Research indicates that choline is important for neural tube closure, making it an important compound for pregnant women. Some animal models show that choline supplementation during critical periods of neonatal development can have long-term beneficial effects on memory.

Deficiency in choline can result in liver and muscle damage. Low dietary choline intake may also have an effect on diseases such as nonalcoholic fatty liver and atherosclerosis.

Now that we have learned why choline is important, how much do we need and where can we get it? The Adequate Intake (AI) for women is 425mg for women, 450mg for pregnant women and increases to 550 mg for lactating women and men.

The best sources of choline can be found in liver, eggs and wheat germ. Cauliflower, cabbage, peanuts, soybeans and grape juice are also good sources. My recommendation is to eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables and you should be getting enough of all of your vitamins and minerals.

Melissa Gerharter MS, RD is co-owner of Joust Strength and Fitness of Ann Arbor, She is also a personal trainer and an adjunct lecturer at Eastern Michigan University. She can be reached at