Study Shows Choline Benefits for Your Brain
A new study shows that taking in choline throughout your life helps keep your brain young and protects against Alzheimer's disease. Keep reading to find out more about the study, what choline is, its benefits, and how to get choline in your diet.
[Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be medical advice. I am summarizing and passing on information based on my research and experience. Check with your own medical providers for personalized guidance.]
What is Choline?
Choline is an essential nutrient. That means that you have to have it.
It was only added to the US list of required nutrients in 1998, so recognition of its importance is relatively new.
It is similar to B vitamins but it is not a vitamin.
Your body can produce a small amount of choline, but you need to eat or take in the bulk of it from diet or supplements.
Choline is vital to the structure of cells throughout your body and is of particular importance for liver and nervous system function. It helps lift mood, boost memory and energy, and reduce inflammation.
Adequate amounts of choline are important to your brain for several reasons.
Choline is used by your body to make fats and move fats to where they are needed. (Your brain cells are largely made up of fats, so this is a key nutrient for a healthy brain.)
- It is used to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is used for muscle control, memory, and other brain functions.
Choline Research Study
Researchers at Arizona State University studied the effect of lifetime choline supplementation on mice who were bred to develop Alzheimer's-like symptoms (AD mice) and mice who did not have the Alzheimer's gene (non-AD mice) against control groups of both types of mice who were not supplemented.
The mice were repeatedly placed in a maze to test their memory. The AD mice that were given choline supplements throughout their life had better memory capability than AD control mice that were not supplemented.
Examining brain tissue from the mice showed less microglia activation in the supplemented groups for both AD and non-AD mice compared to their control groups. Activated microglia are associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.
The researchers concluded that their results suggest that "additional dietary choline may be an avenue to reduce brain inflammation in both neurodegenerative disease and the nondiseased aging brain."
To read the study: Velazquez R, Ferreira E, Knowles S, et al. Lifelong choline supplementation ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease pathology and associated cognitive deficits by attenuating microglia activation. Aging Cell. September 2019:e13037.
Recommended Amounts of Choline
The minimum amount of choline that you should be getting is the Recommended Adequate Intake (AI):
- 550 mg/day for adult males
- 425 mg/day for adult females
For maximizing the benefits of choline, you need to be getting more than the minimum.
There also is a Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) established for choline. It is recommended that you don't go over this amount with supplements:
- 3,500 mg/day
Choline and Folate
Choline and folate play well together. To optimize your use of choline, make sure you are getting enough folate also. (Folic acid is sometimes included in supplements instead of folate, but it is not really what your body needs. If you want to boost your folate using supplements, look for those that say folate on the nutrient breakdown.)
Choline Rich Food Sources
Choline can be found naturally in some foods. The best food sources of choline include:
- pasture-raised eggs,
- liver (chicken or beef),
- grass-fed beef and pastured pork,
- wild salmon,
- dairy products, and
- cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale, Brussel's sprouts).
These foods are also good sources of folate.
Some experts recommend CDP choline, also called Citicoline, or Alpha GPC choline. When I looked on Amazon, they are either extremely expensive or have quite a lot of bad reviews where people are talking about experiencing negative side effects like headaches.
Personally, I have used Thorne Research's Phosphatidyl Choline for many years. (Thorne is a high-quality supplement company that stays away from GMO sources. This is particularly important with choline supplements as they are most often sourced in soybeans and most soybeans are now GMO.) It seems to me that my brain is sharper when I use it. I also eat many choline-rich foods.
Thorne Research's Phosphatidyl Choline's Amazon reviews are mostly 5-star. When I checked what the low rating reviewers had to say, their complaints were things like finding the pill to be too large. (It is fairly large, but it is a capsule and I find that it goes down easily.)
For your convenience, here's the link to the choline supplement on Amazon [I may get a small commission if you purchase through this link. It does not affect your cost and does not factor into my mention of the product to you. You should check with your medical providers for personal guidance about supplements and health care.]:
- Ann Silvers