Choline is an essential nutrient that is classified under the B complex vitamins. As an essential nutrient, it cannot be naturally produced by the body in amounts that is adequate to maintain good health plus the fact that is a water-soluble vitamin and therefore must be obtained through our daily food intake.
The term choline was taken from the Greek word “chole” which means bile, a very appropriate name given to this substance because Choline like bile, possesses fat emulsifying properties. These fat-modifying properties are what provide our cell membranes the ability to handle both fat- and water-soluble compounds. They facilitate the break down of fats in the cell membranes to be used as energy and to prevent hardening of the arteries.
Choline is a vital compound needed for the manufacture of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and the compound phosphatidylcholine. Neurotransmitters are chemicals produced by the pituitary and adrenal glands that transmit information using electro-chemical charges called nerve impulses. Acetylcholine is vital in the proper functioning of our muscles, the autonomic nervous system and plays a part in rapid eye movement (REM) during sleep.
Choline, like folic acid is one vitamin that should be taken not only by pregnant women but also women who intend to get pregnant. Studies show that substantial amounts of choline taken before and after conception greatly reduce the incidence of neural tube defects or spina bifida, a defect characterized by the incomplete development of the spinal chord. This defect is commonly known as hydrocephalus or its other type, meningocele.
Low choline intake can also raise homocysteine levels in pregnant women, a delicate situation that can cause preeclampsia and premature birth complications to the mother or low birth rate for the baby.
Choline as a supplement comes in the form of lecithin which is obtained from egg yolks and soy products. Phosphatidylcholine is also useful as a nutritional supplement that comes in tablet or powder form. Lecithin may be good for your heart as shown in previous research that demonstrated lecithin’s ability to lower cholesterol level.
One gram of choline daily is recommended for strength and endurance athletes especially during intense training. It also plays a vital role in liver health and deficiency of this vitamin manifests in a high level of the liver enzyme alanine transaminase or ALT in the liver.
Choline is considered a “smart drug” because of its nootropic properties which means that it promotes intelligence, improves memory and basically makes a person a fast learner.
People who drink too much alcohol, vegetarians who completely avoid eating meat and other animal products and, endurance athletes and those who do not eat whole eggs may suffer from choline deficiency and may have to take choline supplements in their diet.
Choline can be used as treatment for bipolar disorder, probably for Alzheimer’s disease, hepatitis, glaucoma and other neurological disorders.
Why Choline Bitartrate is Called a "Smart Drug" by Arianna Mendez