Introducing Choline

An Essential Nutrient Overlooked

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Strictly speaking, choline is not a vitamin, but an essential nutrient that is often grouped under the B-vitamins. While many of us know about the importance of folic acid in pregnancy the value of choline is often overlooked. We now know that choline is especially important during pregnancy as it is involved in fetal brain development.

Although the body can make choline, dietary intake of choline is necessary to meet the body’s needs for this nutrient. Choline is important in many metabolic processes including those of liver, heart and brain. Its functions include fat and cholesterol metabolism, cell structure and cell integrity, cellular signaling, neurotransmission, and gene expression.

The Primary Sources of Choline

Choline can be found in many foods, mainly in milk, eggs and peanuts. It is also part of lecithin, which is used as an emulsifier in food processing.

Choline

Bioavailability of Choline

There is no information on bioavailability.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Choline

A varied diet should provide enough choline for most people, but strict vegetarians (who consume no milk or eggs) may be at risk of inadequate choline intake. Inadequate intake of choline can lead to liver dysfunction and muscle damage. During pregnancy choline is especially important as it is involved in fetal brain development. There is some data to suggest that maternal choline status might be related to neural tube defects. Choline biosynthesis declines in women during the menopause. Recent research has linked low choline blood levels to an increased risk of stunting (short-for-age) in children from Malawi. Choline and folate interact at the level where homocysteine is converted to methionine. If the metabolism of one of these methyl donors is disturbed, it disrupts the metabolism of choline. Excess intake of choline is rare but can result in a fishy body odor, vomiting, salivation, hypotension and liver toxicity.

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate choline into your next meal by trying the delicious recipe below…

Spanish Omelette*

Ingredients

500g potatoes
1 onions, preferably white
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
6 eggs

Method

Start with scraping the potatoes or leave the skins on, if you prefer. Cut them into thick slices. Chop the onion. Next, heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the potatoes and onion and stew gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are softened. Strain the potatoes and onions through a colander into a large bowl (set the strained oil aside). Then beat the eggs separately, then stir into the potatoes with the parsley and plenty of salt and pepper. Heat a little of the strained oil in a smaller pan. Tip everything into the pan and cook on a moderate heat, using a spatula to shape the omelette into a cushion. When almost set, invert on a plate and slide back into the pan and cook a few more minutes. Invert twice more, cooking the omelette briefly each time and pressing the edges to keep the cushion shape. Slide on to a plate and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food

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