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Health Benefits of Choline
1. Forms DNA and Cell Structures
Choline helps the body to absorb fat, and fats are then used to create cell membranes and structures. Without enough choline in the body, our cells cannot properly withhold their structure and signal messages to other parts of the body. (5)
What is choline’s role in gene expression and DNA? Choline is needed to create DNA that is responsible for building out entire body structure. Choline and folate are known to be key nutrients involved in the methyl group processes, which the body uses to form genetic material that helps build every system within the body.
2. Supports Central Nervous System
One of the main benefits of choline is that it is used by the body in a variety of ways that are crucial for nerve functioning, including aiding in nerve signaling and maintaining the membranes of brain cells.
Choline also helps form tissue within the nervous system that plays a part in brain development and growth. It’s believed that choline can improve signaling capacity of nerves, support their structural integrity, and protect vital neuronal membranes. (6)
Choline acts like a precursor to certain important neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, which is used in healthy nerve and muscle function. Neurotransmitters are chemical symptoms of communication used throughout the body constantly to relay information from system to system.
The neurotransmitter acetylcholine specifically plays a part in memory and learning, so a choline deficiency can result in poor concentration, poor memory, mood changes and other cognitive impairments, especially as someone ages. Acetylcholine is formed when an acetate molecule combines with a choline molecule, so without enough choline present in the body, this molecule cannot be properly produced and brain function can suffer. (7)
3. Maintains Healthy Liver Function
Choline is needed to properly transport fat from the liver to cells throughout the body. A benefit of choline is cleansing the liver because choline is partially responsible for keeping the liver clear from fat build-up that can accumulate and cause harm. Choline plays a part in transporting both cholesterol and triglycerides, two forms of important fats, from the liver to other parts of the body where they are needed.
In people who have low levels of choline present within their body, some studies have found that they are more at risk for experiencing liver damage and even liver failure. (8) Choline also helps form LDL cholesterol within the liver, and even though LDL is considered the “bad” kind of cholesterol, a certain level is still needed for healthy functioning — without enough, the body will suffer by storing fat in the liver.
4. Helps Protect Memory and Loss of Brain Function
Another one of the benefits of choline is its ability to keep your mind mentally sharp as you age. Because it’s a component of cell membranes and neurotransmitters that are used in nerve signaling, choline also plays a role in preserving memory and preventing dementia, memory loss and other signs of cognitive decline as someone becomes older.
As we age, our brain becomes less elastic. Choline does an important job of maintaining brain elasticity by working to maintain levels of acetylcholine, which naturally declines into old age.
Some studies point to the fact that low levels of acetylcholine may lead to cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia. (9) Patients who develop Alzheimer’s at times show very low levels of acetylcholine, and some medications used to treat Alzheimer’s actually mimic choline’s effect of increasing this neurotransmitter’s effects.
5. Can Help with Exercise Performance and Muscle Function
Choline helps to improve mental energy, focus and concentration, which are all important for physical activity and athletic performance. It’s believed that choline’s effect on your metabolism and neurotransmitters in the brain can produce quicker reaction times and cut down on the amount of time needed for mental processing. (10)
Choline may also be helpful in improving energy levels, your mood, sleep cycles and recovery time following strenuous activity. Additionally, choline is used in muscle nerve functioning and may be useful in preventing fatigue and muscle aches or pains following exercise. Every time a muscle moves within the body, choline is needed to activate the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which sends chemical signals to muscles and makes them mobile.
6. May Help Maintain Heart Health
Choline and folate assist in the conversion of homocysteine, which prevents the body from accumulating too much fat and may be beneficial in cutting down on the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. (11) Homocysteine is an amino acid that enters the body from protein sources, normally meat, and high levels of homocysteine have been correlated with development of heart and blood vessel diseases.
Some studies have shown that choline and lecithin can help to reduce blood cholesterol and risk for heart disease, but different studies have yielded inconsistent results, so more research is still needed before doctors will begin to prescribe choline for its ability to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and trigylcerides. (12)
7. Supports a Healthy Pregnancy
Pregnant women need even more choline than anyone else because choline is rapidly used by fetuses while their brains, cell structures and nerve channels are forming. Some studies even show that when a fetus obtains more choline, they have a better chance of later having healthy, sharp brain functioning and a lower risk of brain abnormalities. (13) Other studies show that pregnant women with a low blood level of choline have been shown to be at a higher risk for having children with neural tube defects and developmental problems.
Choline is also naturally found in breast milk since it’s important for a newborn’s growth and proper development. This is the reason it’s added to most infant formulas. Neuron synapses are being formed in the brain of fetuses and infants at a very rapid rate, so choline plays a major part in helping to build the foundation of the brain’s structure. (14)
Choline is also important during pregnancy because of its relationship with folate. Choline, folate and B vitamins all work together to keep levels of one another in check. Choline is one of the methyl donors in the body — which means that when folate, a vital nutrient needed for fetal development, is low, that choline is able to help fill in and carry out body functions where folate is needed but is missing.
8. Important for Children’s Growth and Development
Neuron plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to build new neuron connections, and choline is thought to be very important for supporting brain elasticity and plasticity. (15)
As children grow older, choline is needed to help develop brain function since it plays a role in learning, remembering, logical thinking and concentration abilities. Children need to acquire choline to form neurotransmitters channels in their brain that will help with information retention, verbal abilities, creative thinking, mathematical skills, social cues, and more. (16)
In fact, choline is needed for forming new brain connections between neurons called synapses, which is the chemical reaction needed for memories to actually form in the brain. Some reports even show that choline can help prevent learning disabilities, including ADHD, and can improve concentration in children and teens.
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