New Findings About Essential Choline
By Rosalie Marion
June 19, 2006
A new study funded in part by the
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) shows
that getting higheror at least adequatedietary levels of choline is
related to lower blood levels of an amino acid called homocysteine. High levels
of homocysteine in the blood are a potential risk factor for heart attack,
stroke, dementia, cancer and even death.
The study was conducted by epidemiologist
Jacques and biochemist
Selhub at the
Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at
Tufts University in Boston,
Mass. They collaborated with researchers from the
Harvard School of Public Health,
also in Boston, and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. ARS is the U.S. Department
of Agricultures chief scientific research agency.
Choline is a micronutrient that is essential for breaking down fat for
energy and maintaining the structural integrity of cell membranes. Choline is
also used by the body to produce acetylcholine, which is involved in nerve
The researchers examined the relationship between choline intake measured by
food- frequency questionnaires and levels of homocysteine measured by blood
tests among 1,960 participants in the Framingham Offspring Study. The findings
were independent of factors that affect homocysteine levels such as intake of
folate, vitamin B-6, alcohol and caffeine.
The study participants choline intake was estimated by using a new
choline database produced by researchers at the ARS
Data Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., in collaboration with UNCs
choline researcher and study coauthor Stephen H. Zeisel.
Further studies are necessary, but getting adequate dietary choline may play
a role in helping maintain lower blood levels of homocysteine in the body.
Experts suggest that an adequate choline intake is 425 milligrams (mgs) a day
for women and 550 mgs a day for men. Some good food sources include liver,
bacon, beans, wheat bran and peanuts.
database of more than 400 listed foods can be accessed as a PDF file.