As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Product Science Manager for Herbalife Nutrition, I’m always on the lookout for new health breakthroughs.
This year, I’m looking forward to exploring key health issues with colleagues from around the world at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE), the world’s largest gathering of food and nutrition experts. Sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, FNCE is where more than 10,000 registered dietitian nutritionists, researchers, policy experts and others come together.
FNCE 2017 is hosting a panel entitled “What’s New on the Label: Choline, the Forgotten Nutrient.” A relative newcomer on the nutrient scene, the Institute of Medicine officially recognized choline as an essential nutrient in 1998. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now considers choline important enough to include it on the new Nutrition Facts labels, due to hit shelves next year.
What are the benefits of choline?
Choline plays a role in a number of physiological processes, including cell metabolism. The body needs choline to synthesize components vital for cell membranes. We also need it to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter for memory, mood, muscle control and other brain and nervous system functions. Choline is also involved in lipid transport and metabolism and brain and memory development in the fetus.
Studies show that choline supplementation during the later stages of pregnancy can have long-term benefits on the newborn’s memory. Another finding indicated that a choline-rich diet reduces inflammation. There’s definitely a lot to love about choline.
What foods are good choline sources?
We produce only a small amount of choline in the liver, which means we have to get the rest from food. Eggs, beef liver and wheat germ are especially rich in choline. You can also find choline in lean beef, salmon, fish, chicken, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Milk, peanuts and even chocolate have small amounts of choline.
How much choline do I need?
The recommended adequate intake of choline is 550 mg per day for adult men and 425 mg per day for adult women. Pregnant women need 450 mg per day and lactating women need 550 mg per day.
For reference, one egg gives you 147 mg of choline. A three-ounce serving of liver contains a whopping 356 mg. A serving of peanuts provides 25 mg.
Although true choline deficiency is rare, recent health data analysis shows average choline intake for adults and older children is generally below adequate. In addition, more than half the population may have a genetic component that increases their choline requirements.
Do I need more choline in my diet?
A balanced diet provides enough choline for most people, though research shows that many people are not obtaining enough choline from their diet. Older adults and vegetarians, both of whom tend to get less choline, should definitely add more choline-rich foods into their diet.
It is always recommended to check with your doctor and registered dietitians to learn more about the benefits of choline and how it can be incorporated into your health and wellness plans.