Study: Choline essential for brain, eye and liver

Study: Choline essential for brain, eye and liver

Research finds choline essential to support liver function and fetal development, but adults might not be getting enough.

Research has shown choline to be essential for liver function and to prevent fatty liver, and is critical for fetal development of the eye and brain.  It may also be possible to support brain and eye functions from adolescence through adulthood with choline, enhancing memory and higher level thinking. However, it is a challenge to get enough choline in the diet.

The Institute of Medicine declared the Adequate Intake recommendation for choline —550 mg/day for men and 425 mg/day for women. Recent national dietary surveys show that only children tend to get the amount of choline considered adequate; most adults do not. Due to genetic variations, some individuals require more choline than is considered “adequate.”  Estrogen can help support a woman’s synthesis of choline, lowering the dietary requirement; but 40 percent of women have a genetic condition that prevents choline synthesis, increasing their need for choline from the diet. Choline requirements are also significantly affected by an individual’s type of bacteria in the gut.

Choline-rich foods are eggs, including the yolk, and liver.  Good sources include chicken, fish, beef, and dairy products like milk and yogurt. Vegetable sources contain some choline, but the levels are relatively low.  To get 550 mg of choline in a day, one could consume 2 whole eggs, 3 oz. cooked chicken, 1Ž2 cooked broccoli, 1Ž2 cup cooked Brussels sprouts, 2 cups milk, and 3 oz. almonds.  If eggs are excluded, it would require 9 oz. of additional meat to get the same amount of choline.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced a plan to add choline as a nutrient to be listed voluntarily on the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels, so it may be easier in the future to find choline naturally present or fortified in foods.

For those not sure they are getting enough choline, it may be important to use a dietary supplement with choline. Pregnant and lactating women who have elevated requirements for choline and need choline for the optimal development of the fetus, should be certain that the prenatal vitamin they are taking includes choline. 

For more information, visit The Choline Information Council website at You’ll also find informational videos featuring key scientists researching the many health impacts for choline.  

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