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Research shows choline supports eye development, vision

Choline helps the body make stem cells, which become retina cells; the more retina cells one has, the better one's vision will be. It aids vision throughout life, as well.

Choline is critical to overall health, cognitive function, and eye health. In the same way that choline supports healthy development of the brain, it also supports the development of the retina of the eye and impacts vision throughout life.    

According to Dr. Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Nutrition and director of the Nutrition Research Institute at University of North Carolina, “This is the frontier of research being done right now. Early studies show that retina development [in the fetus] depends on choline intake of the mother.” Choline supports stem cell development that forms the retina, the part of the eye that transmits images to the brain.  

The current results are based on mice studies, but similar results are projected for humans. “Fewer retinal cells form and eyesight is worse if mothers had low choline intake vs high,” Zeisel says.  

The mechanism whereby choline supports eye development and vision is similar to how it supports brain development and the capacity of the memory center for life. Choline supports the development of more stem cells that form nerve cells in the brain and retinal cells in the eye. Just as more nerve cells in the brain translate to better memory throughout life, more retinal cells in the eye mean better vision over a lifetime. Insufficient choline, especially for the developing fetus and infant, means vision will be less than optimal for the adult and throughout the aging process.  

More than 90 percent of the U.S. population does not meet Adequate Intake recommendation for choline of 550 mg per day for men and 425 for women. Choline-rich foods are eggs and liver, but plant sources are relatively low in choline. For those who are not sure they are getting enough, it might be important to supplement the diet with choline.   

Among health concerns, eye health is ranked fourth among adults and eighth for moms' worries about their children. Eye is a high priority health concern globally.  

According to the National Eye Institute, 64 percent of Americans wear eyeglasses and 11 percent wear contact lenses. Of those wearing glasses or contacts, 30 percent are nearsighted and 60 percent are farsighted.  

For details about choline and cognitive function and informational videos featuring Zeisel, visit The Choline Information Council website.

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