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What is Choline?

Choline is considered an essential nutrient for everyday health and must be consumed in the diet or as a supplement. It is usually grouped with the B vitamins and has several important functions including being essential parts of biological cell membranes in the form of the phospholipid; phosphatidylcholine. It is also involved in the transmission of signals from the brain through the nerves to other organs of the body. It is also involved in the metabolism and use of lipids or fats in the body.

Where Does Choline Come From?

Choline can be found in a wide variety of foods, most notably in meat products including beef liver, chicken and cod fish. Egg yolk, cauliflower, soybeans and amaranth are also good quality sources. Strangely for a water soluble nutrient, it is found in high concentrations in fattier foods such as in organ meats and fatty meats.

Choline Benefits

Besides the functions mentioned above, lack of choline can also result in fatty liver and may also play a role in the development of neurological diseases and atherosclerosis. Supplementation with choline or increased choline consumption may be able to help in reducing homocysteine levels, which has been shown to lead to development of heart disease. Choline has also been associated with anti-inflammatory properties and is an essential nutrient during pregnancy due to a link between high intakes of choline and the lowered risk and incidence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Studies are still being conducted on the many benefits of choline, but due to the large role it plays in all cells as well as the nervous system, it may be beneficial for a wide variety of other conditions including mental illness.

Choline Benefits for Bodybuilding

Due to choline’s association with lipid metabolism, it is often included in fat loss supplements as a way to improve the ratio of fat and lean muscle mass. It is thought that choline has the ability to mobilise fats to be metabolised rather than to be stores. As previously mentioned, choline supplementation has been shown to reverse a condition known as fatty liver; known to occur in people who are deficient in choline. Evidence for choline supplementation for weight loss is however on the sparse side. There has been one study looking at choline and carnitine supplementation and its ability to affect fat metabolism. The study found that body weight was significantly decreased with consumption of choline and carnitine, however body fat percentage, while also decreased with supplementation over no supplementation was not significantly affected.

Choline Negatives & Side Effects

Extremely high doses of choline intake has been associated with a fishy odour due to its metabolism into trimethylamine. However, these are at doses of up to 10-16g, substantially over the recommended intakes. High intakes have also been associated with vomiting, sweating and lowered blood pressure which can cause fainting. At the moment, the upper level of intake for choline rests at 3.5g/day. That is, one should not consume more than 3.5g of choline per day either through food and/or supplementation. However, reaching these levels is extremely uncommon and in fact, one study was able to show that only around 10% of the American population were meeting adequate levels of choline.

Choline Recommended Doses & Ingredient Timing

While there is a recommendation of around 550mg/day of choline for males and 425mg/day for females, previous studies showing benefits of choline supplementation have used around 1g/day of choline to be taken with meals. People taking niacin supplements, vegetarians and vegans as well as endurance athletes should consider consuming more than the recommended amounts due to a higher level of risk of deficiency in these groups.

Choline Supplements

Choline can usually be found as lecithin supplements which are said to help with cholesterol levels. Lecithin supplements are also recommended for those taking niacin or vitamin B3 to treat high cholesterol. This is due to the fact that niacin has the ability to reduce body levels of choline.

Due to its similarities to B vitamins, choline is also included in many B vitamin complex supplements as well as in multivitamins. As mentioned before, due to their effect on lipid metabolism, they are often included in fat loss supplements, especially fat metabolisers and are frequently coupled with inositol as an ingredient.

Stacking Choline

Choline can really be stacked with any supplement, however is probably best used with l-carnitine, caffeine or inositol supplements if one were to use choline for weight and fat loss.

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1. Oregon State University – Linus Pauling Institute – Minronutrient Information Centre. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/. Last Accessed 9th May 2012
2. Detopoulou P, Panagiotakos DB, Antonopoulou S, Pitsavos C, Stefanadis C (February 2008). "Dietary choline and betaine intakes in relation to concentrations of inflammatory markers in healthy adults: the ATTICA study". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87 (2): 424–30.
3. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA); Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to choline and contribution to normal lipid metabolism (ID 3186), maintenance of normal liver function (ID 1501), contribution to normal homocysteine metabolism (ID 3090), maintenance of normal neurological function (ID 1502), contribution to normal cognitive function (ID 1502), and brain and neurological development (ID 1503) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal 2011;9(4):2056. [23 pp.]. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2011.2056.
4. Hongu N, Sachan DS. ‘Carnitine and choline supplementation with exercise alter carnitine profiles, biochemical markers of fat metabolism and serum leptin concentration in healthy women.’ J Nutr. 2003 Jan;133(1):84-9.
1. Oregon State University – Linus Pauling Institute – Minronutrient Information Centre. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/. Last Accessed 9
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