Updated 19 February 2013

Choline: the vital, but neglected nutrient

Have you ever heard of choline? This neglected nutrient is vital during pregnancy and the first 4 years of a baby's life; and can reduce the incidence of breast cancer by 24%.

Have you ever heard of choline? Did you know that it is a vital nutrient, particularly during pregnancy and the first 4 years of a baby’s life? Did you know that adequate choline intakes during pregnancy can reduce the risk of your daughters developing breast cancer when they grow up?

Last month I happened to be listening to Classic Health on Classic fm 102.7, which is presented by Karen Appelbaum, and I was fascinated to hear her two specialist guests discuss how important choline is in the prevention of cancer.  Dr Devan Moodley, a South African Specialist Oncologist, and Dr Donald McNamara, a Nutrition Specialist from the USA, were discussing how various cancers could be prevented.

  • It is essential for synthesising chemicals, such as acetylcholine, which are used to transmit nerve signals
  • Choline is also involved in cell-membrane signalling
  • Choline assists with the transport of fats or lipids (lipoproteins) 
  • It reduces the level of harmful homocysteine (which is linked to heart disease)
  • It regulates metabolic pathways
  • Choline is important for detoxification and prevention of fatty liver disease
  • It plays a vital role in brain development in the womb and for the first 4 years of life, particularly memory development, and choline may slow down memory loss in old age
  • Together with folic acid, choline helps to prevent neural tube defects
  • It modulates neonatal imprinting (i.e. it shuts off foetal genes that would make the child susceptible to environmental carcinogens and thus lowers the risk of developing cancer in later life)

  • Egg yolk (340 mg/50g)
  • Beef and chicken liver (247 mg/90g)
  • Soy flour, defatted (201 mg/cup)
  • Salmon (187 mg/90g)
  • Eggs, whole (125 mg/egg)
  • Quinoa (60 mg/ ½ cup)
  • Chicken (56 mg/90g)
  • Wheat germ (50 mg/30g or 2 Tablespoons)
  • Milk (38 mg/cup)

  • 425 mg - women aged 19 years and older
  • 550 mg - men aged 19 years and older
  • 450 mg - pregnant women
  • 550 mg - breastfeeding women


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Lifestyle »

E-cigarettes: Here are five things to know

E-cigarettes have become hugely popular in the past decade, but a rash of vaping-linked deaths and illnesses in the US is feeding caution about a product that's already banned in some places.

Allergy »

Ditch the itch: Researchers find new drug to fight hives

A new drug works by targeting an immune system antibody called immunoglobulin E, which is responsible for the allergic reaction that causes hives.