Choline has only recently been recognized as an essential nutrient. Choline is part of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays a major role in the brain; for this reason, many studies have been designed to look at choline's role in brain function.

Choline functions as a part of a major biochemical process in the body called methylation; choline acts as a methyl donor. Until recently, it was thought that the body could use other substances to substitute for choline, such as folate, vitamins B6 and B12, and the amino acid methionine. But recent evidence has finally shown that, for some people, adequate choline supplies cannot be maintained by other nutrients and must be obtained independently through diet or supplements.1-3

Choline is widespread in the foods we eat. The average diet provides about 500 mg to 1,000 mg of choline per day.2,4 Lecithin, a fatty constituent in foods, is a major source of choline; it is comprised mostly of a type of choline called phosphatidylcholine (PC). Lecithin and PC have been studied separately as treatments for a variety of illnesses; for more information on these supplements, see the full article on Lecithin.

According to US and Canadian guidelines, the recommended daily intake of choline is as follows:

  • Infants
    • 0-6 months: 125 mg
    • 7-12 months: 150 mg
  • Children
    • 1-3 years: 200 mg
    • 4-8 years: 250 mg
    • 9-13 years: 375 mg
  • Males
    • 14 years and older: 550 mg
  • Females
    • 14-18 years: 400 mg
    • 19 years and older: 425 mg
  • Pregnant Women: 450 mg
  • Nursing Women: 550 mg