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Choline: An Essential Micronutrient

Choline is found to be a micronutrient essential for the normal functioning of the body’s metabolic processes. It is classified to be an organic substance that belongs to the family of B-vitamins. It is a natural amine that makes up the membranes of cells as well as forms a part of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Based on studies made by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, adults should have at least 425–550mg of choline everyday.

The metabolic products of choline include trimethylamine, which is a substance known for its fishy odor. So, when someone distinctly smells like a fish, you can conclude that that person has ingested a huge amount of choline.

Choline is also important for vitamins that need the transfer of methyl groups in order to be activated. These vitamins, namely vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid get their methyl group from choline. This in turn led to a reduction in disorders of the cardiovascular system as seen by scientists of Central Soya in laboratory studies made with lecithin and choline.

As a supplement, choline is known to be nootropic or a form of a smart drug because of the role acetylcholine has played in the development of the cognitive aspect of the brain. Choline is needed to form acetylcholine and this metabolism is suggested to provide memory, mood and intelligence in the brain. Although choline is not soluble in lipids and theoretically lacks the ability to traverse the blood brain barrier, some research has shown a choline transporter aiding its transport inside. This topic is still a subject of debate between experts. Choline is also being used to induce lucid dreaming together with Galantamine although this is still subject to further research.

A deficiency in choline has been seen to cause bipolar disorder, based on research by Lakhan and Vieira and the efficiency of giving lecithin to counteract this disorder.

Infant formulas are now required to contain choline, especially those manufactured from the milk of cows. Choline is also present in supplements and weight loss aids although there has been no documented evidence that this has made some beneficial effect in the reduction of body fat through an increase in its metabolism.

Choline, in the form of phosphatidylcholine is present in abundance in several food products including soy, egg yolks, cooked beef, veal, turkey and chicken livers. There are even food products that contain free choline such as lettuce although in very minimal amounts. In fact, it is also a subject of debate, if the trace amounts of choline is beneficial to human digestion.

Lecithin is the form of choline supplement that is widely available worldwide. This can be extracted from egg yolks and soy. It is also used often as an additive for food. Choline is also found in different forms, either as a pill or powder, including phosphatidylcholine. Choline chloride is in liquid form since it is hydrophilic and water soluble. The latter is preferred over the former form due to its high tolerance in the gastrointestinal tract.