Choline: Boost Your Brainpower and Much More

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Choline is known for its benefits in supporting memory and brain health. Whether you’re a student seeking to improve your study skills or someone older looking to maintain cognitive vitality, this article looks to provide you with valuable insights, dosage recommendations, and explore the best food sources of choline. Choline has a lot going for it, so let’s dive in.

What Is Choline?

Choline is an essential nutrient that our bodies need for a range of vital functions. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the structure of our cell membranes, producing compounds that act as cell messengers, and helping to make a substance necessary for removing fat from the liver. Choline is also important for brain health, particularly for brain development and memory functions. Although our bodies can produce some choline, we need to get most of it from our diet or supplements. Foods rich in choline include eggs, meat, fish, and dairy products, as well as some plant foods like nuts and cruciferous vegetables. It’s important to get enough choline, as deficiencies can lead to health issues like liver disease, heart disease, and neurological disorders.

~90% of Americans do not reach the recommended daily intake of dietary choline. Thus, it’s imperative to determine whether dietary choline deficiency increases disease outcomes. 

Dietary choline intake is necessary to prevent systems-wide organ pathology and reduce Alzheimer’s disease hallmarks [PMC9924938]

What are the Benefits of Choline?

  • Cell Function: Choline functions as a building block for phospholipids, which are needed for cell membranes’ structure and integrity. So, it supports healthy cell function throughout the body.
  • Cognitive Function: Choline is essential for brain health and plays a role in memory, learning, and cognitive function. A study showed that people over 60 consuming between ~190 and 400 mg of choline each day might reduce the risk of poor cognitive function by about 50% compared to consuming less. [PMC8570899]
  • Brain Development: Adequate choline intake during pregnancy and early childhood is important for proper brain development and may have long-term cognitive benefits. [PMC7352907]
  • Liver Health: Choline supports liver function by aiding in the metabolism of fats and preventing the buildup of fat in the liver. It may help prevent or alleviate conditions like fatty liver disease. [PMC3729018]
  • Heart Health: Choline contributes to the metabolism of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to heart disease risk. Adequate choline levels may help maintain heart health. *
  • Nervous System Function: Choline is involved in the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter necessary for proper nerve function and communication.
  • Muscle Control: Acetylcholine, produced from choline, is involved in muscle control and coordination, contributing to smooth muscle movement.
  • Metabolism Support: Choline is involved in lipid metabolism, aiding in the transport and breakdown of fats in the body.
  • Pregnancy Support: Adequate choline intake during pregnancy is crucial for fetal brain development and may have long-term cognitive benefits for the child.
  • Inflammation Modulation: Choline plays a role in modulating inflammation in the body, potentially contributing to overall health and well-being.

Is Choline Safe?

Choline is notably safe, largely due to its natural presence in many common foods, making it a regular part of our diet. Most people consume choline through meat, eggs, fish, nuts, beans, and vegetables without experiencing adverse effects. Choline supplements are also considered safe when used in appropriate dosages. While very high doses may cause minor side effects, such as nausea, sweating, or a fishy body odor, these are not typically seen with normal dietary consumption or recommended supplement doses.

Medication Interactions with Choline

  • Anticholinergic Drugs: Medications with anticholinergic effects, such as some antidepressants, antihistamines, and medications for overactive bladder, may reduce the effectiveness of choline. These medications work by blocking the activity of acetylcholine, and taking choline supplements may counteract their effects. Severity: Moderate.
  • Cholinergic Drugs: Choline supplements may enhance the effects of cholinergic drugs, which are medications that increase the activity of acetylcholine. Combining choline with these drugs may lead to excessive cholinergic effects. It is important to use caution and consult with a healthcare professional when taking choline alongside cholinergic medications. Severity: Moderate.
  • Blood Thinning Medications (Anticoagulants/Antiplatelets): Choline may have mild blood-thinning effects. When combined with medications like warfarin, aspirin, or clopidogrel, it may increase the risk of bleeding. It is important to monitor blood clotting parameters and work closely with a healthcare professional when using choline alongside blood-thinning medications. Severity: Mild to Moderate.
  • Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors: Choline supplements may enhance the effects of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, which are medications used to increase acetylcholine levels in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Combining choline with these medications may lead to excessive cholinergic effects. Close monitoring and guidance from a healthcare professional are essential. Severity: Moderate.
  • Metformin: Metformin, a medication commonly used to manage diabetes, may reduce choline levels in the body. Supplementing with choline may help restore adequate levels. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional when combining choline with metformin. Severity: Mild.

Supplement Interactions with Choline

  • Vitamin B12: Choline and vitamin B12 work together in several metabolic processes. Supplementing with choline may increase the body’s requirement for vitamin B12. It’s important to maintain adequate levels of both nutrients for optimal health.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are important for brain health and function. Choline and DHA share common metabolic pathways, and optimal levels of both nutrients are necessary for proper brain development and function.
  • Methionine: Methionine is an essential amino acid that plays a role in choline metabolism. Adequate levels of methionine are necessary for the proper synthesis and utilization of choline in the body.
  • Betaine (Trimethylglycine): Betaine is a compound that can be derived from choline and plays a role in various metabolic processes. It is involved in homocysteine metabolism and may have potential health benefits. Supplementing with betaine may affect choline metabolism and utilization.
  • SAM-e (S-Adenosylmethionine): SAM-e is a compound involved in methionine metabolism and various biochemical reactions. It interacts with choline metabolism, and alterations in choline levels may affect SAM-e utilization.

How Much Choline Do We Need?

Birth to 6 months125 mg/day125 mg/day
7–12 months150 mg/day150 mg/day
1–3 years200 mg/day200 mg/day
4–8 years250 mg/day250 mg/day
9–13 years375 mg/day375 mg/day
14–18 years550 mg/day400 mg/day450 mg/day550 mg/day
19+ years550 mg/day425 mg/day450 mg/day550 mg/day

Food Sources of Choline

While our bodies can produce some choline, dietary sources are essential to meet the recommended intake. Good food sources of choline include eggs, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and certain vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts. Choline requirements vary based on factors such as age, gender, and life stage. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, in particular, require higher amounts of choline to support fetal brain development.

With adult choline needs in the range of 400 to 500 milligrams per day, and given that most people don’t like liver, it’s easy to see from the table below that most people are not reaching levels for an adequate intake. Now, take into account that the richest sources of choline are eggs, meat, and fish, and it’s easy to see how vegetarians and people eating plant-based diets can be low in this nutrient.

(mg) per
(mg) per
Beef liver, pan fried, 3 ounces35665Brussels sprouts, boiled, ½ cup326
Egg, hard boiled, 1 large egg14727Broccoli, chopped, boiled, drained, ½ cup316
Beef top round, separable lean only, braised, 3 ounces11721Mushrooms, shiitake, cooked, ½ cup pieces275
Soybeans, roasted, ½ cup10719Cottage cheese, nonfat, 1 cup265
Chicken breast, roasted, 3 ounces7213Fish, tuna, white, canned in water, drained in solids, 3 ounces255
Beef, ground, 93% lean meat, broiled, 3 ounces7213Peanuts, dry roasted, ¼ cup244
Fish, cod, Atlantic, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces7113Cauliflower, 1” pieces, boiled, drained, ½ cup244
Potatoes, red, baked, flesh and skin, 1 large potato5710Peas, green, boiled, ½ cup244
Wheat germ, toasted, 1 ounce519Sunflower seeds, oil roasted, ¼ cup193
Beans, kidney, canned, ½ cup458Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked, 1 cup193
Quinoa, cooked, 1 cup438Bread, pita, whole wheat, 1 large (6½ inch diameter)173
Milk, 1% fat, 1 cup438Cabbage, boiled, ½ cup153
Yogurt, vanilla, nonfat, 1 cup387Tangerine (mandarin orange), sections, ½ cup102

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The Different Forms of Choline Supplements

There are different forms or types of choline available, each with its own benefits. Here are some common forms of choline:

  • Choline Bitartrate: This is the most common and affordable form of choline. It provides a stable source of choline and is commonly used in dietary supplements. However, it has a lower choline content compared to other forms.
  • Alpha-GPC (L-alpha glyceryl phosphorylcholine): Alpha-GPC is a highly bioavailable form of choline. It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, making it a popular choice for cognitive enhancement and memory support. It may also have neuroprotective properties. However, it can be more expensive compared to other forms.
  • Citicoline (CDP-Choline): Citicoline is another well-absorbed form of choline. It provides choline as well as cytidine, which is converted into uridine in the body. Citicoline is often used for cognitive support, and it may have additional benefits for brain health and neuroprotection. However, it is typically more expensive compared to other forms.
  • Phosphatidylcholine: It is commonly derived from soy lecithin and is often used to support liver health and cognitive function. However, its choline content may be lower compared to other forms, and it may have a higher cost. Phosphatidylcholine is a choline molecule attached to a phospholipid. It is a natural component of cell membranes and is involved in various cellular functions.

Choline Bitartrate Supplement for Pregnancy and Lactation

Choline 550mg by Vital Nutrients

  • Adequate levels of choline are necessary to maintain normal pregnancy, including early brain development, and may have lasting neurocognitive benefits for the children*[PMC6722688]
  • Supports brain and nervous system functions including memory, mood and muscle control*
  • Promotes normal lipid transport and metabolism to support liver health*

Take 2 capsules daily achieves FDA daily value for choline. For pregnancy, 2 capsules 2 times daily achieves the intake during pregnancy that may produce cognitive benefits for your child.

Amount Per 2 Capsules
Choline … 550mg (bitartrate)

Alpha GPC or Citicoline for Cognitive Support

Alpha GPC 300mg by NOW Foods

  • Bioavailable Source of Choline
  • Supports Mental Acuity*

Alpha GPC is a natural physiological precursor to acetyl-choline, a neurotransmitter that is involved in memory and other cognitive functions.* Alpha GPC is more bioavailable than other forms of choline and is known to cross the blood brain barrier.  In the brain and other neural tissues, Alpha GPC becomes a constituent of cell membranes.* Clinical studies have demonstrated that supplementation with Alpha GPC can support the brain’s synthesis of acetyl-choline.* In this way, it helps to promote normal cognitive function and mental acuity.*

Natural color variation may occur in this product.
Take 2 capsules twice daily with food. Best when taken early in the day.

Amount Per 2 Capsule Serving
Alpha GPC … 600mg (L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine)

Citicoline 250mg by Jarrow Formulas

Supports Brain Function*

  • Stabilized CDP Choline Capsules
  • Brain Lipid Precursor
  • For phosophatidylcholine (PC)
  • 30% Brain Grey Matter = PC
  • Neurotransmitter Precursor: Acetyl-choline
  • Only Quality Cognizin® Material

Citicoline [stabilized CDP Choline (cytidine 5’-diphosphocholine)] is a naturally occurring intermediate involved in the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine, a major constituent of the grey matter of brain tissue (30%).* Citicoline consumption promotes brain metabolism by enhancing the synthesis of acetylcholine and restoring phospholipid content in the brain, both of which positively affect memory and other brain activity.*
Take 1 capsule up to 2 times per day with food or as directed by your qualified healthcare professional.

Amount Per 1 Capsule Serving
Citicoline … 250mg (Cognizin®)(from Stabilized Cytidine 5′-Diphosphocholine)

Choline (PCC) for Fatty Liver

In a recent study of nearly 3000 adults with NAFLD and conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol took 1.8 grams per day of PPC in addition to their standard medical care. After six months, ultrasounds showed that about 68% of participants had healthier-looking livers. Researchers concluded that choline-like supplements could be useful for NAFLD. [PMC7011021]

PhosChol PPC 900mg by Nutrasal

Each capsule provides 900mg of Polyenylphosphatidylcholine (PPC). PPC is vital to cell membranes. Studies suggest PPC increases choline levels in the blood and brain and supports acetylcholine synthesis for neuronal and cell function. PPC supports brain, liver and cardivascular functions. PPC aids gastointestinal mucosa.
As a dietary supplement, take 2-3 capsules per day or as directed by your physician.

Amount Per Capsule
Phosphatydylcholine … 900mg (As Polyenylphosphatidylcholine) from soy

Phosphatidylcholine by Biotics Research

Phosphatidylcholine supplies a supplemental source of this important phospholipid. Phosphatidylcholine is a major constituent of cell membranes, and is important for normal cellular membrane function and repair.*

Suggested Use:
One (1) softgel capsule one (1) to three (3) times each day as a dietary supplement or as otherwise directed by a healthcare professional.

Serving Size: 1 Softgel 

Amount Per 1 Softgel Serving
Phosphatidylcholine … 420mg (from soy lecithin) 

Other Ingredients: Softgel capsule shell (gelatin, water, glycerin and ethanol).

Other phospholipids: Phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylinositol. This product is gluten and dairy free.

Each softgel capsule contains 1,200mg of lecithin providing 420mg of phosphatidylcholine.

To Sum It Up

Choline is an essential nutrient that has profound implications across our bodies. Not only does it play a key role in maintaining the structural integrity and signaling functions of cell membranes, it’s also critical for neurotransmitter synthesis, fat transport, metabolism, DNA regulation, fetal development, cognitive function, cardiovascular health, and liver function. That’s a long list!

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

About the Author

Stephanie Figon, MS, RDN, LD

Creator of Supplement Sciences and NutriScape.NET. As a dietitian since 1992, Steph has had experiences in consulting, 15 years in clinical, and has operated a private practice nutrition counseling office for since 2011. Log in to comment and save this article on your board or send your comments to

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