Choline is not a vitamin or a mineral, but it is an essential nutrient. Although the body can create choline in small amounts, it cannot make enough to maintain health. Choline must be consumed in the diet.
Choline is a component of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in functions such as muscle movement, and memory formation.
Most of the body's choline is found in phospholipids, which are fat molecules. The most common of these is phosphatidylcholine, better known as lecithin.
Choline's functions include:
|0-6 months||125 mg||125 mg|
|7-12 months||150 mg||150 mg|
|1-3 years||200 mg||200 mg|
|4-8 years||250 mg||250 mg|
|9-13 years||375 mg||375 mg|
|14-18 years||400 mg||550 mg|
|19 and older||425 mg||550 mg|
|Pregnant, all ages||450 mg||n/a|
|Lactating, all ages||550 mg||n/a|
Although the body can make choline, it cannot make enough to maintain proper health and functioning. Therefore, it is possible for your choline levels to become too low if your diet does not contain enough. Because choline is essential for the transport of fat from the liver, deficiency symptoms include:
The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for choline from dietary sources and supplements combined is:
|1-3 years||1000 mg||1000 mg|
|4-8 years||1000 mg||1000 mg|
|9-13 years||2000 mg||2000 mg|
|14-18 years||3000 mg||3000 mg|
|19 and older||3500 mg||3500 mg|
Symptoms of choline toxicity include:
Very little information is available on the choline content of foods; however, some good sources of choline include:
The following populations may be at risk for a choline deficiency and may benefit from a supplement:
Because choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is important in learning and memory, it has been studied for a possible role in Alzheimer's disease. Studies have been conducted, but a review of clinical trials found no benefit of supplementation with lecithin in the treatment of people with dementia.
To help increase your intake of choline:
American Society for Nutrition
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Choline. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University website. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/choline. Updated January 2015. Accessed June 23, 2016.
Dietary reference intakes: vitamins. Institute of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.iom.edu/Global/News%20Announcements/~/media/474B28C39EA34C43A60A6D42CCE07427.ashx. Accessed June 23, 2016.
Higgins JP, Flicker L. Lecithin for dementia and cognitive impairment. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(3):CD001015.
Ralf J, Purpura M, Kingsley M. Phospholipids and sports performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4:5.
Zeisel SH. Choline: needed for normal development of memory. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000;19(5 Suppl):528S-531S.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 6/23/2016