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LMU 56 – Choline: A Vital Nutrient for All Ages and Stages of Life

AMA Recommends More Choline in Prenatal Vitamins

LMU 56 – Choline: A Vital Nutrient for All Ages and Stages of Life

Source: American Medical Association Annual Meeting (2017) – Chicago

Lifestyle Medicine Update (July 1, 2017)


Breaking news from the 2017 American Medical Association Annual Meeting in Chicago has illuminated a crucial yet often underestimated nutrient—choline. In a transformative move, the AMA declared its support for augmenting choline content in prenatal vitamins to 450 mg per day. Beyond its significance during pregnancy, choline has emerged as a multifaceted nutrient with far-reaching implications for health, including safeguarding against neural tube defects, bolstering liver and kidney function, and enhancing memory and brain health.

The Vital Role of Choline in Pregnancy

The American Medical Association’s proclamation resonates with the overarching importance of choline, a nutrient often overshadowed by its counterparts. Choline’s potency in preventing spina bifida defects and other neural tube deformities is underscored, mirroring the protective prowess of folic acid. This nutrient’s significance in spine and brain development during fetal growth emerges as a linchpin in maternal well-being.

Unveiling the Choline Deficiency Dilemma

The emergence of choline’s prominence is juxtaposed against a stark reality—choline deficiency. A study conducted by University of Chicago researchers in 2015, which evaluated the top 25 prenatal multivitamins as of 2016, revealed a glaring gap. None of these supplements adhered to the scientifically supported choline dose of 450 mg per day, propelling the urgency for corrective measures. Since 1998, the Institute of Medicine identified choline as an essential nutrient, accentuating its significance.

Choline: A Guardian for All Ages

Choline’s protective arm extends beyond the realm of fetal development. A holistic approach to health mandates choline’s presence to avert liver and kidney damage. Notably, choline plays a pivotal role in counteracting fatty liver complications prevalent among overweight individuals, diabetics, and moderate to heavy alcohol consumers. This nutrient emerges as a formidable guardian against primary liver cancer, or hepatocarcinomas, adding to its multifaceted impact.

The Intricate Web of Choline’s Functions

Delving into choline’s intricate role within the human body reveals its far-reaching significance. At the core, choline forms the building blocks of cell membranes, contributing to cellular integrity. Additionally, it assumes a significant role in cell signalling mechanisms, wielding influence over critical processes. Beyond these foundational roles, choline crosses the blood-brain barrier to contribute to brain health. In this capacity, choline facilitates the synthesis of acetylcholine, a memory chemical. As memory proficiency is correlated with acetylcholine levels, choline assumes a pivotal role in cognitive function.

Unveiling Choline Deficiency: A Call to Action

Despite choline’s multifaceted significance, a deficiency epidemic persists. Alarming statistics gleaned from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data reveal that 90% of adults fail to meet recommended daily choline intake. The daily intake recommendation stands at 400-550 mg for adults. A diversity of nutrient-rich foods offers choline in varying concentrations, empowering individuals to fortify their choline intake. The following examples illuminate choline content in 3.5 ounces (100 gm) of select foods:

    • Soybeans: 116 mg
    • Salmon: 91 mg
    • Chicken: 80 mg
    • Soy protein: 86 mg
    • Peanut butter: 66 mg
    • Almonds: 52 mg
    • Broccoli: 40 mg
    • Brussels sprouts: 41 mg
    • Cauliflower: 39 mg
    • Wheat germ: 152 mg
    • Wheat bran: 75 mg
    • Oat bran: 59 mg
    • Whole wheat bread: 27 mg
    • Skim milk (1 cup/8 ounces): 38 mg
    • Lecithin granules (1 tbsp): 250 mg

Choline and Aging: Navigating Cognitive Health

Choline’s resonance in promoting brain health surges as we age. The brain’s choline transporter, which facilitates choline influx, experiences a decline in efficiency, contributing to age-related memory decline. Alzheimer’s patients exhibit conspicuous reductions in choline and choline-based molecules upon post-mortem analysis. Here, choline supplements such as CDP-choline and phosphatidylserine emerge as potential allies for maintaining optimal memory function and brain health, especially for individuals over 55 years of age.

Choline: Paving the Path for Holistic Wellness

Dr. Taylor Wallace’s pioneering research at George Madison University has spurred transformative revelations about choline’s pivotal role. His study unveiled widespread choline insufficiency across the U.S. population, prompting a reckoning with the nutrient’s critical significance. Armed with this knowledge, pregnant women are urged to seek prenatal multivitamins containing 450 mg of choline, fortifying fetal development against neural tube defects. For the adult populace, a conscious effort to incorporate choline-rich foods and supplements becomes paramount. The convergence of science and well-being beckons, charting a course toward holistic wellness.

Conclusion: Choline’s Resonance in Shaping Health

The resounding message from the 2017 American Medical Association Annual Meeting reverberates—the time has come to elevate choline’s status to match its significance. This often-overlooked nutrient assumes center stage, guiding fetal development, bolstering organ function, and nurturing cognitive health. In a landscape punctuated by alarming choline deficiencies, the proactive incorporation of choline-rich foods and supplements emerges as an imperative step toward a healthier future.


      1. Textbook: Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease -10th edition. Editors: Shils M, Shike M, Ross A.C, Coballero B, Cousins R. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: pages 525-536.

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great

Dr. Meschino

Dr. James Meschino


Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.

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