The Critical Importance of Choline for Optimal Brain and Body Health
What is choline?
Choline was only recently (1998) identified as a required nutrient, meaning your body needs it in order to function properly. Your body can make a small amount of choline through a process in the liver which converts cholesterol and other molecules into choline your body can use, however the majority of the choline must come from diet.
Choline is used throughout the body for a variety of functions, which is why it is deemed a required nutrient. Here are some of the things for which your body uses choline:
Cell structure: Choline is needed to make the fats which support the structural integrity of cell membranes
Cell messaging: Cells communicate through chemical messengers and choline is involved in the production of those messenger compounds.
Fat transport and metabolism: Although a small amount of choline is produced in your liver using cholesterol, choline itself is essential in the process of making a substance required to remove cholesterol from your liver. Choline deficiency may lead to fat and cholesterol buildup in your liver, leading to fatty liver diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
DNA synthesis: DNA, the building block of life, uses choline and other vitamins, like B12 and folate in the process of DNA synthesis.
A healthy nervous system: Acetylcholine is one of the major neurotransmitters your body uses in memory, muscle movement (including regulating heartbeat), blood vessel constriction, and many more functions. Choline is converted into acetylcholine in your body to perform these functions. Memory intensive and athletic activities deplete these stores of acetylcholine which then need to be replenished.
What are the benefits of supplementing choline?
If it wasn’t clear by the nomicer of an essential nutrient, choline whether through dietary intake or through supplementation is critical for healthy bodily function. When your body is deficient in dietary choline, it will resort to cholesterol to choline version in the liver, but that is only a small “stop-gap” solution to avoid system failures. Long-term, you must intake an adequate amount of choline to perform those critical bodily functions.
Beyond the basic required amounts of dietary choline, additional supplementation has been shown to have benefits above and beyond getting to “regular bodily functionality”. For example, when performing memory intensive activities, studies have shown that high doses of a highly bioavailable source of choline, like alpha GPC (also known as L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine) can improve memory, clarity, and focus, and can even avoid the brain fog that happens over long durations of memory intensive activities.
Additionally, athletes may be interested in the research coming out regarding the physical performance benefits of choline supplementation. As we know choline is converted into the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a critical neurotransmitter in-part responsible for muscle control, the conclusion from some research indicates that choline supplementation may help stave off the performance degradation and fatigue associated with endurance exercise.
Where can I get choline?
Choline can be obtained in a multitude of ways and a variety of forms. In terms of whole food sources of choline you can choose from the below:
- Whole eggs: Eggs are one of the best sources of choline with approximately 147 mg of choline per egg or 4 eggs have 108% of your daily choline needs
- Organ meat: Organ meats like beef liver and kidneys provide some of the best animal based sources of choline. With the waning popularity of organ meats in the general public, they are also an affordable option with a variety of other nutritional benefits. One ounce of cooked beef liver provides 80 mg of choline. If you wanted to get your total choline needs from beef liver alone, you would only need to consume 4.6 ounces in order to get your RDI (recommended daily intake) of choline.
- Caviar and Fish: With 3 ounces providing 52% (mixed species caviar) and 34% (salmon) they are a tasty source of choline.
- Moving down the list:
- Shiitake mushrooms: 145 grams of cooked shiitake mushrooms = 21% RDI
- Soybeans: 93 grams of roasted soybeans = 39% RDI
- Beef: 3 ounces of cooked beef = 21% RDI
- What germ: 3 ounces of toasted wheat germ = 28% RDI
- Chicken/Turkey: 3 ounces cooked turkey = 13% RDI
Other sources are available but their reasonable serving size compared to their percent contribution to the RDI has led us to leave it off this list. Whether you are following a traditional omnivore diet, a carnivore, or even a vegetarian/vegan diet, it's possible with these listed sources of choline to cover your RDI needs.
There are a variety of supplemental forms of choline with their own benefits and downsides. In the supplement industry where marketing sometimes supersedes the science, some cheaper and less bioavailable forms of choline are used rather their “better” counterparts.
Here are the major forms of choline supplements.
- Phosphatidylcholine (Alpha GPC) - one of the most bioavailable forms of choline as it can directly convert to acetylcholine (the neurotransmitter mentioned above) and can freely enter the blood-brain barrier. It has a high (40%) choline by weight making it one of the best forms of choline.
- Choline bitartrate - a synthetic form of choline which is inexpensive to produce and mainly benefits the liver for the fat removal process mentioned above. It has the highest (41%) of choline by weight but cannot enter the blood-brain barrier meaning it must undergo multiple conversion processes for it to be usable by the body for neurotransmitter production.
- Citicholine - the second form of synthetic choline and a precursor to alpha GPC. It can freely enter the blood-brain barrier, but has a low (18.5%) choline by weight.
Recommended dose for choline supplements is based on the user’s needs. High dose choline seems to offer cognitive benefits, but too much may be overkill and not provide any additional benefits.
Our Brain Fuel supplement, which is 99% pure Phosphatidylcholine (Alpha GPC) is in liquid form which lets you decide how much to take. The 2ml dropper provides 1200 mg of Alpha GPC, though the dose can be controlled precisely with the ml increments on the side of the dropper. Brain Fuel can be taken orally by itself, as it has a slightly sweet taste, in a shake or drink of your choice, or our preference, sublingually.
Sublingual administration involves putting the dropper under the tongue and letting the sweet Brain Fuel supplement sit there for a few moments before washing down with a beverage of your choice. The molecular weight of Alpha GPC means that the skin under the tongue acts only as a limited barrier, and the Alpha GPC can be absorbed by the small blood vessels, getting the supplement directly into your bloodstream for faster effects.