What Is Choline?
The function of this molecule is related to the B vitamins, although, in reality, it has no recognized function as a co-enzyme. This molecule is a source of methyl groups and is necessary for the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and sphingomyelin; these phospholipids are essential components of all biological membranes. It is also a forefather of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in many functions, including nerve impulse and memory.
Functions In The Body
Choline also helps transport fat and cholesterol to the liver and tissues that require them. A deficiency is related to fatty liver disease, known as non-alcoholic cirrhosis. During pregnancy, its intake is especially important since it plays a role similar to folic acid (to protect against neural tube defects) and contributes to the brain growth of the fetus. Also, during infancy, choline helps the cognitive development of children.
Another reason why choline is important is because it is a precursor of key substances:
- Phosphatidylcholine – a substance that keeps cell membranes young, not only in the brain but in all organs. It favors the inflow of nutrients and the outflow of cellular waste products, intercellular communication, and energy production.
- Sphingomyelin – whose deficiency favors cellular aging.
- Acetylcholine – a neurohormone involved in memory and cognition. Adequate levels of this substance seem to protect against degenerative brain diseases, such as senile dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Optimal doses for this protective effect are currently being studied.
- Betaine – fat detergent, and liver protector. An essential product for the treatment of a rare disease (homocystinuria), it appears to have a protective effect on the arteries.
It is very important that women who are pregnant take enough, as low choline intake can cause defects in the baby’s neural tube and can affect their children’s memory. A study found that a diet high in choline shortly before and after conception was associated with a lesser risk of neural tube defects. If low concentrations intake causes an elevated homocysteine level, it raises the risk of preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth weight.
Experts have established the recommendation for adults at a daily intake of 550 and 425 milligrams of choline in men and women, respectively, taking into account that the requirements are higher during pregnancy and lactation. To cover the recommendations, as an example, one large egg already contains more than half of the recommended daily amount. However, the amount needed varies according to age:
- Birth to 6 months 125 mg
- Infants 7 to 12 months 150 mg
- Children from 1 to 3 years 200 mg
- Children 4 to 8 years 250 mg
- Children 9 to 13 years 375 mg
- Adolescents (boys) 14 to 18 years 550 mg
- Adolescents (girls) 14 to 18 years 400 mg
- Males over 19 years 550 mg
- Females over 19 years 425 mg
- Pregnant women 450 mg
- Breastfeeding women 550 mg