Bioactive Compounds - Choline

Bioactive Compounds - Choline

The field of nutrition happens to be a vast area of study. There is, therefore, need to distinguish between bioactive compounds from essential nutrients. Bioactive compounds are compounds that have a significant effect on a cell, tissue or the entire living organism. Nutrients are vital to the sustainability of an organism, but bioactive compounds are not that essential as nutrients cover the function of sustaining the organism. However, it is important to note that bioactive compounds can have an impact on health. When it comes to the research involved in the effectiveness and safety of bioactive compounds, much has been documented with sellers attributing various health benefits on these compounds. We are going to delve into the primary purpose and function of Choline as a bioactive compound with its perks on human health.

What is Choline?

Choline is a major macronutrient necessary in maintaining a general healthy metabolism in an organism. It’s also crucial for liver functioning, standard brain growth, proper muscle movement and supporting the body’s energy levels. Choline is water soluble, and it is related to other vitamins such as those in the B vitamin complex family.

Choline contains nitrogen and is related to vitamins in activity. It is a constituent of phospholipids that make up the structural elements of the cell membranes of cells in living organisms. Choline is also a component of a structural element known as acetylcholine that assists in the normal nerve functioning. It’s also a source of the methyl (-CH3 groups) that are needed for various metabolic processes in the body.

Little has been researched on the magnitude of changes of choline with cooking, but choline appears to be a stable nutrient to heat and storage compared to many other vitamins. You do not, therefore, need to alter your cooking or food storage habits to retain substantial choline amounts from your foods.

History of Choline

In the mid of the nineteenth century, scientists were actively pursuing the chemical compositions of various living tissues. A scientist, Theodore Gobley, in 1850 isolated a molecule from fish eggs and brain tissue. He named this lecithin which is currently a phospholipid that is a constituent of most membranes. Later in 1862, a university professor, Adolph Strecker, characterized the composition of bile from a pig and an ox. He found out that the lecithin from the bile when boiled generated a nitrogenous alcoholic compound known as choline. Before 1921 nothing was known about how nerves communicated with each other. It was only until about half a century later that interest in choline was stimulated when it was discovered that the rate of breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine could be regulated by changing the intake of choline in the diet. The dietary choline was found essential in preventing bone diseases. On rats, it was found that choline deficiency led to hemorrhagic kidneys. Further studies shed light on the importance of choline in body development, and it was not until 1998 that the National Academy of Sciences recognized choline as a vitamin in the B-complex group of vitamins. It further stated that it was essential in your everyday meal plan.

Sources of Choline

Choline happens to be widely available in most of the things you eat. It is in both plant and animal based foods. It is also incorporated in processed foods even though whole foods are much more recommended than processed foods. If you have heard a conversation between people on choline-rich foods, you have probably heard the mention of eggs. A single egg gives you 25% to 33% of you daily choline intake requirement. However, this intake rate may vary with gender as men and women have different optimal intake levels. 99% of the choline in an egg is located in the yolk thus the egg white alone is not sufficient in boosting your choline intake. Most people, however, choose to avoid eggs but if you still incorporate animal foods in your meal plan, there are large sources to choose from. These include beef liver, chicken liver, salmons among others. For people who enjoy fish in their diet but avoid land animals in their diet, they can try scallops, cod, and shrimp. These are superb sources of choline.

If you totally choose to avoid animal-based foods in your diet, you can still get superb amounts of choline from plant-based foods. The richest options are collard greens, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, swiss chard among others. Vegetables by far are your best source of choline available. Just one serving of any of the vegetables mentioned above will give you 10% of the choline intake you need in your day.

The extra choline intake required can be obtained from food additives which give one an additional 100mg of choline. You need roughly 425mg of choline in a day, and therefore this extra from food additives covers 25% of the required amount. You are therefore still going to need a lot more choline from your food for you to reach your daily requirement.

Choline benefits and essential functions

Brain development

Choline is an essential bioactive compound for brain health, synaptic plasticity, and intelligence in general. It is used in your brain primarily as a precursor and as an essential component in the maintenance of healthy and normal working cell membranes. Insufficient choline will significantly affect your reasoning, impair your memory and even affect your mood. Excellent sources of this nutrient considerably boost your cognitive thinking and concentration abilities.

DNA Synthesis

Choline is used in the synthesis of individual phospholipids that are essential for making structural components of the cell membranes and DNA imprints on the cell. Phosphatidylcholine constitutes of 95% of choline in the tissues and can be synthesized from dietary choline. Choline is also used in the synthesis of sphingomyelin found in cell membranes.

Pregnancy and Lactation

During the times of pregnancy and lactation, the demand for choline in the body is very critical. The recommended amount is at about 450mg/d for pregnant women. Large amounts of choline are delivered to the fetus across the placenta. Choline is also important during pregnancy as it helps your baby’s brain and spinal cord develop properly. Just like folic acid, it protects newborns against neural tube effects. The choline concentrations in amniotic fluid are higher than the concentrations in maternal blood thus the need for increased intakes among pregnant women. The transport of choline from mother to fetus depletes the choline levels in the mother’s body. Human milk is rich in choline thus lactation also leads to depletion of maternal stores hence need for higher intakes.

Liver functioning

Recent studies show that choline might just be your liver’s secret weapon. The body can synthesize choline, but this is not easy for someone with a compromised liver. That’s why you find individuals with fatty liver diseases require additional choline intakes from supplements or food. Choline is essential in the production of a certain class of phospholipids that are essential for overall liver health. Choline produces phosphatidylcholine which our bodies need to move fat out of the liver. In short, if you don’t have enough choline, your body cannot move fat out of the liver.

Nerve impulse transmission

Choline is a precursor for acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter involved in muscle control, circadian rhythm memory and other neuronal functions.


It is evident that choline is an essential nutrient for optimal health, but most people do not consume enough. The secret to radiant living is increasing our choline intake in the diet and fully exploit our health options from this humble nutrient.

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