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Choline is Essential for Both Brains and Brawn

Some supplements get a lot of love in the media…omega-3, CoQ10, vitamin D, resveratrol…these and other nutrition superstars deserve all the attention they get.

But there are just as many nutrients that are deserving but overlooked… Such as choline.

Choline (aka vitamin B4) is an essential micronutrient. It’s important for brain and muscle function. There’s strong evidence it also prevents cancer.

Many top doctors and nutritionists say there are good reasons to take choline.

For one thing, research shows that 90% of Americans over the age of 19 are deficient.[i]

Plus, even if you’re getting plenty of choline through your diet, it isn’t always well-absorbed. So getting extra is a good idea, given its important health benefits:

  • Muscle function. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition looked at the effects of choline on men. The subjects were asked to work their leg muscles with squats. Some were given 600 mg of choline a day and the others were given a placebo. The choline group had bigger gains in lower-body strength.[ii] 

    The Center for Applied Health Science Research did another placebo-controlled study. Volunteers did squats and bench press workouts. The subjects who took choline supplements had levels of growth hormone (GH) that peaked 44 times higher compared to the placebo group. GH is necessary for building strength and lean muscle mass.[iii]

  • Brain function. Choline is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found higher choline intake was associated with better cognition, including improved memory.[iv] 

    Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at 2,195 subjects. The subjects were given extensive cognitive testing. Scientists found that low choline levels were linked to poor cognitive performance. People with high choline levels were mentally sharper.[v] 

    A double-blind study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recruited subjects aged 50 to 85. Scientists gave some subjects 1,000 mg of choline daily. Others got a placebo. The choline group had improved short- and long-term verbal memory. There were no differences among the placebo group.[vi]

  • Cancer protection. A study published in the FASEB Journal looked at 1,508 women. The researchers found that women with the highest levels of choline were 24% less likely to get breast cancer.And a test tube study published in the journal Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine found that choline deficiency may raise the risk of liver cancer.[vii]

Foods highest in choline include chicken breast, salmon, pork chops, and eggs. But food sources don’t always provide choline in a form that’s easily absorbed by your body.

Taking supplements may be the best way to get extra choline. But not all choline supplements are created equal. Studies show that CDP choline and alpha GPC choline are the forms that are best absorbed.[viii] Both are readily available from nutrition stores and online retailers.

Don’t take more than 3,500 mg per day. That’s the safe upper limit. Too much choline can cause nausea, sweating, body odor, diarrhea, and drops in blood pressure.[ix]

While not as “glamorous” as some highly touted nutrients, choline is crucial to both body and mind.

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