For Healthy Liver and Brain Function
Choline is a B vitamin which is essential for the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which "sends electrical impulses across synapses between nerve cells, and from motor neurons to muscle cells, causing the muscle cells to contract" (1). It is also an important component of our cell membranes in the form of phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin. In addition, it is also required for the proper metabolism of fats. "Without choline, fats become trapped in the liver, where they block metabolism...People on choline-deficient diets develop liver and kidney disorders" (2) which often result in high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. At the same time, it can effect the memory and mood, not only because it is a neurotransmitter, but because it is essential for the health of the myelin sheaths of the nerves, which play an important role in the transmission of nerve impulses (3).
As a supplement, choline is available as a soluable salt (choline bitartrate, citrate, or chloride) or as phosphatidylcholine in lecithin. Most supplements contain only 35% phosphatidylcholine, at the most. However, some new supplements have come out recently which have more, up to 98%. It is these preparations which you want, because the side effects of large doses of lecithin can be nausea, abdominal bloating, gastrointestinal pain, and diarrhea. As I said, however, these only occur at high doses, so if you can get a preparation with a higher percentage of phosphatidylcholine, you will not have to take such a high dose in order to get the same results. It is only lecithin as a source for choline which can cause these side effects, and only at high doses with low percentages of phosphatidylcholine.
The principle uses for choline supplementation are the treatment of liver disorders, elevated cholesterol levels, Alzheimer's disease, and bipolar depression. In Europe, phosphatidylcholine is marketed as a treatment for acute viral hepatitis, alcohol-induced fatty liver, chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, decreased bile solubility, diabetic fatty liver, drug-induced liver damage, and toxic liver damage (4).
The standard dosage is 350 milligrams three times daily with meals (5). However, dosage ranges of a lecithin product with 90 percent phosphatidylcholine is:
Liver disorders -
350 to 500 milligrams, 3 times a day
Lowering cholesterol - 500 to 900 milligrams, 3 times a day
Alzheimer's disease and bipolar depression - 5,000 to 10,000 milligrams (6).
Prolonged ingestion of massive doses of isolated choline may induce a deficiency of vitamin B6 (3). Remember that the B complex vitamins work together, and should be taken together in the proper ratio. See B-Complex Vitamins: What You Should Know For Optimum Health .
Nutritional Sources for Choline:
Granular or liquid lecithin, wheat germ, egg yolk, liver, and green leafy vegetables (7).
Ailments which may benefit from Choline supplementation:
Cholesterol level, high
Cirrhosis of liver
Bipolar depression (3) (6).
For the next article in this series, go to Inositol: A Calming Sedative
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(1) "Acetylcholine," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
(2) Murray, Michael T. (1996). The Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, p. 137.
(3) Dunne, Lavon J. (1990). Nutrition Almanac, 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 38.
(4) Murray, as in (2) above, p. 139.
(5) Essentiale. (1989). Essentiale forte. Natterman International GMBH, P.O. Box 350120, Cologne 5000, Germany.
(6) Murray, as in (2) above, p. 141.
Health Lifestyles, Inc. (2000). "Choline." Healing with
Nutrition. Available Online: