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Other name(s)

choline bitartrate, choline chloride, choline dihydrogen

General description

Choline is a part of many chemicals within the body. It’s water-soluble. All of the jobs of choline are not yet known. It may be needed for you liver and kidneys to work well. Choline is also a part of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This is a chemical that passes messages between nerves. It also passes messages between nerves and muscles.

Choline is also the building block of lecithin and sphingomyelins. Lecithin is a part of cell walls, plasma, and lipoproteins. Sphingomyelin is the insulating material of brain and nerve tissue.

Medically valid uses

Most people get enough choline from their diets. Choline deficiency only happens in rare cases. For this reason, the use of choline supplements is limited. Choline doesn’t have an established use as a supplement in healthy people.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Choline supplements may help treat neurological issues due to the cholinergic system. But studies show that these supplements don’t affect brain metabolism.

Choline is claimed to help treat these conditions:

  • Tardive dyskinesia

  • Huntington's chorea

  • Tourette's syndrome

  • Friedreich's ataxia

  • Presenile dementia

  • Fatty liver and cirrhosis

Choline supplements are said to reduce cholesterol, control mood swings, and protect the liver from damage due to alcohol. They also may lower blood pressure, boost memory, and treat Alzheimer's disease. Choline may also enhance athletic performance.

Recommended intake

The Adequate Intake of choline is 550 mg for adult men and 425 mg for adult women. Most diets supply these amounts of choline.

Foods that contain choline include egg yolks, soybean, wheat germ, peanuts, and liver.

Choline deficiency in animals may lead to liver problems and kidney damage. These liver problems have led to liver cancer in laboratory animals. However, this has not yet been found in humans.

People being fed intravenously (by IV) may get low serum levels of choline. Then they would need choline supplements.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Choline may cause a stomach ache, diarrhea, or loose stools. This can happen at normal doses. Large amounts (about 20 g) of choline may cause other side effects. These can include dizziness, low blood pressure (hypotension), and fishy body odor. They can also include depression and electrocardiographic problems.

Choline may cause depression in some people. You should not use choline supplements if you have bipolar disorder.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any supplements.

There are no known interactions between choline and any food or drug. People with low folate levels may need more choline.

Online Medical Reviewer: Poulson, Brittany, RD
Online Medical Reviewer: Wilkins, Joanna, R.D., C.D.
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2016
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