Choline is one of the most important nutrients for your body, affecting everything from your head to your toes – literally. In spite of its significance, it wasn’t until 1998 that it was even recognised as an essential nutrient. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t hitting the adequate daily intake of this vital nutrient – here’s why you’ll want to check your levels and make sure you’re getting a good dose of this stuff.
What is choline?
Choline is a nutrient that is neither a vitamin nor a mineral, but it is no less essential for our bodies to function properly. Though our bodies can make some of this stuff on their own, we still need to get the bulk of our choline from food. It’s required for maintaining cell structure, synthesising our DNA and supporting our nervous system – to put it simply, it effects everything from brain development to muscle function, metabolism and liver health. So, pretty much our whole body! While evidence is lacking regarding the required daily intake, some medical boards have indicated a general guide to stick to:
- 425 milligrams for women
- 550 milligrams for men
- 550 milligrams for breastfeeding women
Let’s get into a few of the many benefits choline provides us with – and why you shouldn’t sleep on this underrated nutrient!
May help with mental health
One of the most promising benefits of choline is its effects on our mental health – research suggests that a lack of this nutrient could play a significant role in the development of anxiety. A study shows that supplementation of choline may be beneficial for the treatment of mania in bipolar disorder, and it’s worth noting that choline levels are sometimes used as a marker for a range of mood disorders. Studies have shown a concerning link between choline deficiency and behavioural issues in children, which may lead to the development of mental illness later in life.
Choline may reduce your risk for heart disease
Another impressive benefit of choline is its ability to lower our risks for heart disease – research shows that higher intakes of this nutrient are directly associated with a reduced risk for the disease which remains one of the leading global killers. The reason for this is because, like folate, choline is known to help convert homocysteine – an amino acid – into methionine, so without this important conversion step, many of us end up with too much homocysteine in our blood. And high homocysteine is linked with an increased risk of – you guessed it – heart disease. Choline may be one of the essential pieces of the puzzle to keeping heart disease at bay.
Improves memory function
Choline has impressive brain-boosting properties, including upping our memory and processing functions, according to a number of studies. One study found that supplementing with choline improved both short and long-term memory in adults who had previously reported poor memory function. Choline may have some promising role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease too, with studies finding those in the early stages of the condition benefited from increased memory function in just 6 months. Another study on those with dementia, unfortunately, did not show these benefits, but researchers believe choline could be one of the many factors affecting the development of the condition.
You’re probably wondering where you can find this wonder nutrient – luckily, it’s in a number of accessible, tasty foods that you can easily add to your plate:
- Eggs – just 2 eggs pack a whopping 54% of your daily needs for choline.
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Cottage cheese
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