Choline For Brain Health And Reduced Dementia Risk

Close up of businessman holding digital image of brain in palms. Choline is an important factor in reducing risk of dementia.
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Choline is a nutrient that is a vital component of the messaging system for the brain. It is also involved in other various biochemical activities, especially the structure and performance of cell membranes.

According to information from The Choline Information Council, choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It is also suggested to have a significant role in halting cognitive decline according to research which we discuss briefly later.

Biochemical Role

In biochemical terms, choline also functions as part of phosphatidylcholine, a structural component of the phospholipid membrane of all cells, including glial and neuronal cells. Before birth, choline is needed to help form the membranes of the nervous system.

The derivative of choline is betaine.

Last year, in the first update to the Nutrition Facts label for 20 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for manufacturers to voluntarily label choline. In addition, the FDA established a reference daily intake for choline of 550 mg per day.

Egg Yolks And Phosphatidylcholine.

Egg yolks contain fat-soluble vitamin D and are naturally high in choline. Even moderate egg intake has become associated with better cognitive performance if observational studies are to be believed. That association has come about because eggs are so rich in choline especially phosphatidylcholine.

Dietary Choline Intake And Reduction In The Incidence Of Dementia

At least 50 million people suffer from dementia. There is something like 10 million new cases being diagnosed nearly every year now according to statistics from the World Health Organization. The nutrient may support the brain during aging and helps prevent changes in brain chemistry that may result in cognitive decline and failure.

The association between dietary choline intake with the risk of developing incident dementia has been examined in men of middle-age or older.  The men were part of the prospective, population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. The research was conducted at the University of Eastern Finland (Ylilauri et al., 2019).

The study is a long-term investigation tracking the diet, health and lifestyle behaviours of 2,500 Finnish men aged between 42 and 60. All the men were examined between 1984 and 1989. The researchers in this instance have combined information for this particular study with other data gleaned from hospital, medication reimbursement and records concerning deaths in a follow-up period of 22 years.

A portion of the men (500 in number) performed a series of cognitive performance and memory tests 4 years later. Levels of dementia including incident related and Alzheimer’s were considered. Dietary intake was assessed using a 4-day food questionnaire recorded at baseline. Over nearly 22 years, 337 men were diagnosed with dementia. In this study, lifestyle factors were considered as well as their nutritional state. They also looked at the presence of a particular gene called APOE4 which is linked to a predisposition for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Total choline intake had no association with the risk of incident dementia. However, both total choline and phosphatidylcholine intakes were associated with better performance in cognitive tests assessing frontal and temporal lobe functioning. 

The study showed a higher phosphatidylcholine intake was associated with lower risk of incident dementia and better cognitive performance in men. These Finnish researchers have a broader perspective and are cautiously optimistic. This is one significant observational study and larger studies are required to provide better evidence for the association.

What Other Benefits Do We Get From Choline?

Choline is needed for DNA synthesis along with other nutrients like vitamin B12 and folate which all affect gene expression. Choline is also critical in the overall metabolism of fat.

Heart Health Benefits

There is an association between elevated dietary intake of choline and a lower risk of ischemic stroke. A study from 2018 examined 4,000 African American subjects in the 3924 Jackson Heart Study (JHS) over a 9 year follow-up time period.

Ingredients Offering Choline 

Rembrandt Foods offers a new egg yolk protein and phosphatidylcholine concentrate based on egg yolks. The new ingredient which has yet to be branded is a defatted egg yolk powder that contains approximately 57% protein and is a rich source of phospholipids. It contains approximately 21% phosphatidylcholine and 4%–5% phosphatidylethanolamine in roughly a 4:1 ratio. This unique ingredient is made using a solvent-free natural extraction technology and has a significantly reduced level of triglycerides.

References

Ylilauri, M.P.T., Voutilainen, S., Lönnroos, E., Virtanen, H.E.K., Tuomainen, T.-P., Salonen, J.T.,Virtanen., J.K. (2019) Associations of dietary choline intake with risk of incident dementia and with cognitive performance: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 110 (6), December pp. 1416–1423 (Article). 

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