Choline is similar to the B vitamins. It can be made in the liver. It is also found in foods such as liver, muscle meats, fish, nuts, beans, peas, spinach, wheat germ, and eggs.
Choline is used for liver disease, including chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis. It is also used for depression, memory loss, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, Huntington's chorea, Tourette's disease, a brain disorder called cerebellar ataxia, certain types of seizures, and a mental condition called schizophrenia.
Athletes use it for bodybuilding and delaying fatigue in endurance sports.
Choline is taken by pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in their babies and it is used as a supplement in infant formulas.
Other uses include preventing cancer, lowering cholesterol, and controlling asthma.
How does it work?
Choline is similar to a B vitamin. It is used in many chemical reactions in the body. Choline seems to be an important in the nervous system. In asthma, choline might help decrease swelling and inflammation.
Likely Effective for:
- Liver disease caused by exclusive feeding by vein (parenteral nutrition).
Possibly Effective for:
- Asthma. Taking choline seems to lessen symptoms and the number of days that asthma is a problem for some people. It also seems to reduce the need to use bronchodilators. There is some evidence that higher doses of choline (3 grams daily) might be more effective than lower doses (1.5 grams daily).
- Preventing neural tube defects, when taken by a mother around the time of conception. Some research indicates that women who get a lot of choline from their diet around the time of conception have a lower risk of having babies with a neural tube defect, compared to women with lower intake.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- A brain condition called cerebellar ataxia.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Delaying fatigue in endurance sports.
Likely Ineffective for:
- Memory loss due to age.
- Hepatitis and other liver disorders.
- High cholesterol.
- Huntington's chorea.
- Tourette's syndrome.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & Safety
Choline is LIKELY SAFE for most adults and children when used appropriately.
High doses are POSSIBLY UNSAFE for adults and children. Doses over the Daily Upper Intake Levels (see dosage section below) are more likely to cause side effects such as sweating, a fishy body odor, gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, and vomiting.
There is some concern that increasing dietary choline intake might increase the risk of cancer of the colon and rectum. One study found that women eating a diet that contains a lot of choline have an increased the risk of colon cancer. However, more research is still needed to determine the effects of diet on colon cancer.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Choline is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth and used appropriately. Doses up to 3 grams daily for pregnant and breast-feeding women up to 18 years of age, and 3.5 grams daily for women 19 years and older are not likely to cause unwanted side effects. There isn’t enough information available about the safety of choline used in higher doses in pregnant or lactating women. It’s best to stick to recommended doses.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For asthma: 500-1000 mg three times daily.
Daily Upper Intake Levels (UL, the highest level of intake that is not likely to cause harm) for choline are: 1 gram daily for children 1-8 years, 2 grams for children 9-13 years, 3 grams for children 14-18 years, and 3.5 grams for adults over 18 years of age.