Choline is an essential nutrient required for normal body functions. Even though your liver can create small amounts of choline, you get a lot more from your diet.
Important functions of choline
Cell structure - Needed to make fat that supports the structural integrity of the cell membrane.
Cell messaging - Helps in the synthesis of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter involved in memory storage and acts as a messenger.
Fat transport and metabolism - Inadequate levels may lead to the buildup of cholesterol and less mobilisation of fat.
Nervous system maintenance- It is important to make acetylcholine (neurotransmitter) which is involved in the proper functioning of memory, muscle movement and other basic functions.
People at risk of its deficiency
Endurance Athletes - Levels fall during prolonged exercises or sports
Alcohol intake - Chronic drinking can lead to an increase in requirements
Postmenopausal women - When oestrogen levels drop naturally post-menopause, they are at a greater risk of its deficiency.
Pregnant women - As choline is required for the development of the unborn child, its requirement increases during pregnancy.
Positive Health Benefits
1) Reduced risk of heart diseases - Choline is associated with reduced risks of heart diseases as Folate and choline work together to convert the amino acid homocysteine to methionine. This leads to the fact that deficiency of either nutrient can result in elevated levels of homocysteine in your blood, which is linked to heart diseases and the risk of strokes. Although, further research is needed to investigate the same.
2) Brain function and mental health
Some evidence suggests that choline plays a role in boosting memory, improves brain development and treats anxiety, and other mental disorders.
3) Liver disease
Limited evidence suggests that choline may reduce the risk of having liver disorders as low intake or inadequate intake is associated with greater severity of the disease.
4) Maintaining metabolic pathways
Choline is vital for the maintenance of various key metabolic processes and prevents progression of various health impairments. For instance, its deficiency impairs folate metabolism, which may result in error-prone repair attempts.
5) Choline as antioxidant
The methyl donation function of choline is a crucial step in maintaining a balanced cellular antioxidant defence system, thereby reducing oxidative stress. According to Ossani et al. (2007), its deficiency produces oxidative, which damages the liver, heart, kidney, and brain.
In conclusion, the recognition of choline as an essential nutrient is gaining importance. Proper choline transport and distribution throughout the body, plays a vital role in multiple clinical manifestations.