Choline is an essential nutrient that is found in certain foods and is also available as a supplement. It is metabolized in the liver, where it is converted to phosphatidylcholine, which helps create proteins that transport fats and break down cholesterol. It also serves as “food” for beneficial gut bacteria. The Food and Nutrition Board has established an adequate intake (AI) of choline to prevent liver damage.
A choline deficiency can lead to liver dysfunction, which increases the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Changes in choline or phosphatidylcholine metabolism may also adversely affect certain biochemical pathways that lead to NAFLD. While a choline deficiency can lead to liver dysfunction, it's not yet clear if dietary choline or choline supplements can treat NAFLD. Choline is associated with brain health because it is converted to acetylcholine, which plays a role in memory and thinking. Studies have found that people with Alzheimer's disease have lower levels of an enzyme that converts choline to acetylcholine and therefore theorize that a higher dietary intake of choline may prevent cognitive decline.
While some observational studies have found that higher choline intake is associated with higher levels of cognitive function, such as memory, clinical trials have not shown that choline supplementation significantly improves these cognitive measures. Most Americans consume less choline than AI, but deficiency is very rare in healthy people, since the body can produce some choline on its own. A true choline deficiency can cause muscle or liver damage and cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Fried beef liver is one of the richest sources of choline, with more than 414 milligrams per 100-gram serving. Other sources include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs. You can also take a choline supplement if you are not getting enough choline in your diet. In addition to consuming foods rich in choline, you can also reduce your risk of developing NAFLD by eating a variety of whole grains (such as whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice) and limiting consumption of refined grains (such as white rice and white bread).
Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine is also important. If you are looking for ways to get the recommended 450 mg of choline per day, there are several options available. Eating foods rich in choline such as beef liver, eggs, fish, poultry, dairy products and other meats is one way to get enough choline. You can also take a choline supplement, which can provide you with the recommended amount of choline without having to eat large amounts of food. In addition to getting enough choline from your diet or supplements, it's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. This will help reduce your risk of developing NAFLD and other health problems associated with a lack of choline.