Closely related to the B complex family of vitamins, is not truly considered a vitamin
since researchers cannot agree on any common definitions of deficiency symptoms. Choline
is found in all living cells, and is known to play a vital role in maintaining the central
nervous system and in numerous metabolic functions.
Choline is a component of lecithin and is used in the manufacture of cell membranes. It is
also required for the production and metabolization of fats and cholesterol, and helps to
protect the liver from the accumulation of excess fatty deposits. Choline's most vital
role may lie in its activity in the brain and central nervous system. Choline is a
precursor of the important neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a chemical used in the
transmission of brain impulses between nerves, muscles and organs. In this role it is
involved directly with cognition, long and short term memory, stimulus response, and
mental energy. Since acetylcholine levels increase rapidly after consuming choline,
researchers have employed choline supplements in the treatment of various disorders marked
by lowered levels of acetylcholine in the brain, including Huntington's disease,
Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and tardive dyskinesia.
There is no recommended daily intake for choline. A deficiency of choline can result in
increased fatty deposits in the liver, memory loss, and poor muscle coordination. While
not toxic, excess consumption of choline can lead to over-stimulation of muscles, leading
to tightening of the shoulders and neck, resulting in a tension headache.
Foods highest in choline include egg yolks, liver, meats, brewers yeast, milk, legumes and
whole grain cereals. Choline can be manufactured in the human body with the help of
vitamin Bl2, folic acid, and the amino acid called methionine, although not necessarily in
optimal amounts. Choline is also available as a dietary supplement, in such forms as
phosphatydil choline, choline chloride, or choline bitartrate. Choline supplements should
be avoided by persons who suffer from manic depression, as they may deepen the depressive
phase of this disorder.