- Choline is a vital nutrient found in eggs, meat, and dairy products.
- But researchers find many people aren’t getting enough of the nutrient.
- Vegans and vegetarians have more risk for lower choline levels, but experts say people can take steps to supplement their diet.
Despite decades of diet advice, new research finds we still might not get enough key nutrients.
One nutrient many of us are missing out on? Choline.
Present in eggs, dairy, and meat, choline was recognized as an essential nutrient in 1998.
For the last 21 years, there has been a recommended daily choline intake of 550 milligrams (mg) per day for men and 425 mg per day for women, increasing to 450 mg during pregnancy and 550 mg for women who breastfeed.
That amount of choline intake doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult, considering that one hard-boiled egg has about 113 mg of choline.
But according to research, 90 percent of children (but not infants), pregnant women, and adults aren’t getting enough.
Essential for Health
According to the research, choline is an essential nutrient found in many foods. The brain and nervous system use it to regulate functions that include memory, mood, and muscle control. Choline is also needed to form the membranes that surround your body’s cells.
Although the body produces some choline in the liver, most of the choline we need comes from the food we eat.
Choline is naturally found in egg yolks, fish (like salmon), meat, and dairy. The best source is eggs. One large egg can provide 25 percent of a pregnant woman’s daily choline needs and more than half the choline required for 4- to 8-year-old children.
Research addresses why the move to plant-based diets has worsened this problem, placing unborn children at risk.
Choline is transported to the fetus in utero. It’s an important nutrient because it’s involved in the development of the brain and spinal cord. Shortfalls could impact the cognitive development of children after they’re born.
The concept that the body will adapt is somewhat of a myth, choline can be likened to omega-3 fatty acids in that it is an ‘essential’ nutrient that needs to be obtained from dietary or supplemental sources, as the body doesn’t produce enough to meet human requirements.
Recent research finds less than 9 percent of pregnant women meet the minimum daily requirement.
Research points out that the nutrient is key not just for in utero brain development, but as a newborn becomes a toddler as well.
At the present time, choline has been included among the critical nutrients that support brain growth in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. In other words, life in utero plus the first 2 years of life.
There is a concern that failure to provide key nutrients such as choline during this critical period of brain development may result in lifelong deficits in brain function despite subsequent nutrient repletion.