It’s crucially important for a healthy brain and strong memory.
It regulates your heartbeat.
It prevents fatty liver disease.
And it helps you perform at your peak during exercise.
But chances are this vital nutrient isn’t on your radar. Many doctors don’t even know it’s essential to good health.
And most of us don’t get nearly enough of it.
Nine in 10 Americans are deficient in choline, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. If you are having more “senior moments,” or if you are tiring more easily when you exercise, a choline deficiency may be the reason.
Dr. Taylor Wallace is an affiliate professor of nutrition at George Mason University. He recently completed an analysis of choline intake among Americans.
“There isn’t enough awareness about choline, even among healthcare professionals,” he said.
One reason for choline’s low profile is that it wasn’t recognized as an essential nutrient until 1998. That’s when a study by the Institute of Medicine discovered that a deficiency can lead to fatty liver disease and muscle damage.
To compound the problem, one of the foods richest in choline got a bad rap from doctors for decades. We were told that eggs were bad for heart health. Some people still believe this myth, even though study after study has shown that it is absolutely wrong.
As a result of the bad advice, many people stopped eating a food that can provide all the choline you need.
Choline: Vital to Four Areas of Health
Choline is crucial for several important biological functions:
- Brain. Choline is extremely important to healthy brain aging. Choline helps the brain process information and store memories, which impacts learning.
Choline is one of the building blocks for acetylcholine. This is a chemical messenger that keeps nerves functioning properly.
An 11-year study of people over 60 found that choline decreases homocysteine levels. High blood levels of this amino acid have been linked to poor cognitive performance.
Other research suggests that a choline deficiency can cause dementia.
- Heart. Choline’s promotion of acetylcholine production is critical to heart health. Acetylcholine helps your nerves regulate your heart rate. Lack of choline can lead to abnormal heart rhythm, heart disease, and loss of heart muscle.
- Liver. Choline helps remove fat from your liver. This prevents fatty liver disease and loss of liver function. A choline deficiency can eventually lead to liver failure.
- Pregnancy. Choline helps pregnant women produce more DHA. This omega-3 fatty acid is a primary structural component needed for a baby’s brain development. When pregnant rats are deprived of choline, their offspring suffer rapid memory loss as they age.
How to Get More Choline
Egg yolks are the most concentrated food source of choline. Other good sources are grass-fed beef (especially beef liver), wheat germ, Brussels sprouts, cod, wild-caught salmon, broccoli, peanut butter, and chocolate.
Choose organic or wild varieties of these foods whenever possible.
Another way to ensure you get enough choline is by taking a supplement. Women should take 425 mg daily. Men should take 550 mg.
Choline is the under-the-radar nutrient that everybody should know about.
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