Choline is an essential nutrient that is usually classified with the B vitamins. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences recommends 425 to 550 milligrams of choline daily for adults as adequate intake. Research indicates that choline has been found to positively affect learning abilities and memory functioning, as well as many other conditions.
What is Choline?
Although it is not officially a B vitamin, it may be classified as one soon. Choline is required by the body for a number of important processes, including liver protection, cell membrane structure, and maintaining neurotransmitter functioning. Most authorities classify choline as an essential nutrient or micronutrient. The body manufacturers a small amount of choline, but it is usually not as much as is required for optimal health, so medical experts recommend getting additional choline through the diet or in the form of supplements. Foods that are good sources of choline include meat, liver, fish, legumes, beans, nuts, peas, eggs, wheat germ, and spinach.
Research on the benefits of choline is continuing, but according to studies so far, adequate choline intake is associated with preventing or resolving a number of diseases and conditions, such as:
- Alzheimer's disease,
- Memory loss,
- Cerebellar ataxia
- Tourette's disease,
- Cardiovascular disease,
- Liver diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis,
- Huntington's chorea,
- Certain types of seizures,
- High cholesterol,
- Certain types of cancer,
- Asthma and allergies.
Choline is also a critical nutrient for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, as it helps to prevent neural tube defects in developing fetuses and promotes healthy brain development in newborns.
Many athletes use choline for delaying the onset of fatigue in sports which require endurance. Choline is utilized by body builders, as well.
Choline side effects
When taken as directed by health professionals, choline is not associated with any harmful side effects. In very rare instances, excessive choline intake has been associated with increased body temperature, sweating, and loss of appetite.
Choline should be taken earlier in the day, as it can interfere with sleep if consumed too close to bedtime.
How does Choline help brain function?
Choline is a "building block" for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which promotes intelligence and memory in the brain. Research on pregnant rats indicates that there is a correlation between choline intake and the ability to perform mental tasks of the offspring. Choline has been found to promote optimal memory functioning and to promote the ability to learn, as well as a preventative agent for protecting against dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
In other medical studies, choline has emerged as a helpful nutrient in lowering the levels of an amino acid in the blood called homocysteine. This is important because elevated levels of homocysteine are linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Additional research has shown that choline has also been associated with properties that protect the liver from certain diseases and to help repair liver damage which has already occurred.
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