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Keeping up with choline

The below article was issued for the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) by Protactic Strategic Communications

Eggs are loved for their great taste, versatility, and for being a cost-effective meal option for anytime of the day. The egg is also nutritious: a source of protein and contains heart-healthy fats, with a host of minerals like iron and zinc, and the vitamins A, B2 and B12. But there’s a less well-known nutrient in eggs that is deserving of some attention: choline.

Choline is a vitamin-like nutrient essential as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Part of all of the body’s cell membranes, the body cells cannot function without choline. Choline is also a building block for the important neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called acetylcholine. This makes choline important for memory, mood, muscle control and other brain and nervous system functions.

Unfortunately, less than 1 in 10 people get in enough choline.1 While our livers can produce some choline, it is too little to meet our daily needs which means choline needs to be eaten in the diet. Eggs are high in choline with an impressive 147 mg per large egg. This is the same as about 27 % and 35 % of an adult man and women’s daily needs, respectively.

Choline is required for normal brain growth and development. This nutrient also participates in pathways that regulate genes related to memory and brain (cognitive) functions. For this reason, scientists think that choline may influence mental health and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.2

Speaking of the brain, choline is essential for a baby’s brain development, too. A study from Cornell University found that babies of mothers who eat enough choline when pregnant reap brain and cognitive benefits.3   This is why the choline needs for pregnant moms is higher, making well-cooked eggs a good food choice. Yet despite these great benefits, it is concerning that 9 in 10 pregnant women consume too little choline.1

Added to this, choline needs are 23 % higher in breastfeeding mothers. Choline is found naturally in large amounts in breastmilk.4   Beyond infancy, young children also benefit from higher choline intake in the first two years of life.5

Choline is good for adults, too. Scientists have found that choline may help in managing blood pressure, keeping the heart and its blood vessels healthy. A new study showed that for every 100 mg increase in the amount of choline eaten, the risk of developing high blood pressure decreases by 16 %.6 Since one egg contains 147 mg of choline, this goes to show that adding eggs to your diet is important in managing high blood pressure, along with other lifestyle changes.

So, how do you get in more choline? Easy – eat an egg. Studies have shown that egg-eating adults are more likely to meet their choline needs each day.1 Egg eaters also have almost double the intake of choline compared to non-egg eaters. Eating just the egg white though? Well then you will not be getting in all the health benefits of choline which is only found in the egg yolk.

It is always recommended to get choline from a balanced diet rather than take high dose supplements. This is supported by studies that have shown that when choline is present in its natural form, like an egg, it is more efficiently absorbed compared to taking a supplement.7

Photo by Laura Goodsell on Unsplash

References

  1. Wallace, T.C., Fulgoni, V.L., 2017. Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients. 9, 839. doi:10.3390/nu9080839.
  2. Beckdash, R.A., 2019. Neuroprotective Effects of Choline and Other Methyl Donors. Nutrients. 11, 2995. doi:10.3390/nu11122995.
  3. Caudill, M.A., Strupp, B.J., Muscalu, L., Nevins, J.E.H., Canfield, R.L., 2018. Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding study. The FASEB Journal. 32(4), 2172-2180. DOI: 10.1096/fj.201700692RR
  4. Chen, M.Y., Northington, R., Yan, J., 2017. Choline Composition in Breast Milk–A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The FASEB Journal. 31(S1), lb392-lb392.
  5. Derbyshire, E., Obeid, R., 2020. Choline, Neurological Development and Brain Function: A Systematic Review Focusing on the First 1000 Days. Nutrients. 12(6), 1731. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061731
  6. Golzarand, M., Bahadoran, Z., Mirmiran, P., Azizi, F., 2021. Dietary choline and betaine intake and risk of hypertension development: a 7.4-year follow-up. Food and Function. 12(9), 4072-4078.
  7. Smolders, L., de Wit, N.J.W., Balvers, M.G.J., Obeid, R., Vissers, M.M.M., Esser, D., 2019. Natural Choline from Egg Yolk Phospholipids Is More Efficiently Absorbed Compared with Choline Bitartrate; Outcomes of A Randomized Trial in Healthy Adults. Nutrients. 11(11), 2758. doi: 3390/nu11112758

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