What is a choline supplement?
A choline supplement is a dietary supplement. Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs to function. Choline supplements increase the level of choline in your body. You may take a choline supplement if you’re not getting enough choline in your diet.
What is choline?
Choline is an essential nutrient that supports your lipid metabolism and liver health. Your liver produces some choline, but most of the choline your body needs comes from the food you eat. Your body needs choline to function properly. Choline helps:
- Your brain and central nervous system control your memory and mood.
- Your liver and muscles work correctly.
- Your cells form and repair their membranes.
- Your lipids break down and convert into energy.
What foods can I get choline from?
You’re probably already eating many foods that contain choline. Choline can be found in a range of foods including:
- Meat, poultry and fish.
- Dairy and eggs.
- Vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.
- Beans, nuts and seeds.
- Whole grains.
What is choline deficiency?
Choline deficiency is when you’re not getting enough choline. Most people don’t get the daily recommended amount of choline. However, choline deficiency is rare in healthy people who aren’t pregnant. Choline deficiency can lead to:
- Muscle damage.
- Liver damage.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
The amount of daily choline you need depends on various factors. The average daily recommended amount of choline you need are:
|Age/Gender/Life Stage||Recommended Amount of Choline|
|Birth to age 6 months||125 mg|
|Infants ages 7 to 12 months||150 mg|
|Children ages 1 to 3 years||200 mg|
|Children ages 4 to 8 years||250 mg|
|Children ages 9 to 13 years||375 mg|
|Boys ages 14 to 18 years||550 mg|
|Girls ages 14 to 18 years||400 mg|
|Men ages 19 years and up||550 mg|
|Women ages 19 years and up||425 mg|
|Pregnant people||450 mg|
|Breastfeeding people||550 mg|
What are the benefits of a choline supplement?
A choline supplement can help ensure your body is getting enough choline to function properly. It may also help reduce your risk of fatty liver disease, muscle damage and other health conditions.
Who should use a choline supplement?
Most people don’t need to worry about the amount of choline they get each day. However, certain groups of people can use choline supplements to make sure they’re getting enough. These people include:
- Vegans and vegetarians.
- People who are pregnant.
- People with certain genetic disorders.
- People who are fed through their veins (intravenously).
Should I take a choline supplement during my pregnancy?
Yes. It’s very important to get enough choline while you’re pregnant. Choline supports your baby's brain and spinal cord development. Choline deficiency during pregnancy can cause birth defects. These defects include cleft lip, hypospadias and cardiac defects.
In addition, research has shown children whose birth parents took proper levels of choline have better attention, memory and problem-solving skills. Prenatal vitamins typically contain little if any choline. Therefore, your healthcare provider may recommend a choline supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamin.
Are there risks to my pregnancy if I’m taking choline supplements?
No. Taking a choline supplement at the recommended dose poses no known side effects or risks to the development of your unborn baby.
Do I need to worry about any interactions while taking choline supplements?
Choline supplements don’t have any known interactions with medications or other supplements. However, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking any supplements or other over-the-counter medications.
What are the side effects of taking choline supplements?
Taking too much choline can cause a range of side effects. These side effects include:
- A fishy body odor.
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
- Excessive salivation.
- Low blood pressure (hypotension).
- Liver damage.
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction).
Some research also indications that taking too much choline increases your risk of heart disease.
What are the best choline supplements?
Choline is in many different foods as part of a healthy diet. However, you can supplement choline with a dietary supplement if you need to increase the amount in your body. Choline supplements are available as dietary supplements that:
- Contain choline only.
- Are combined with B-complex vitamins.
- Are part of a multivitamin or multimineral.
Research hasn’t shown which form is most efficient. You can talk with your healthcare provider about which choline supplement they recommend.
What’s the difference between a choline supplement and a CDP-choline supplement?
CDP-choline stands for cytidine-diphosphocholine. CDP-choline is composed of choline and another nutrient called cytidine. A CDP-choline supplement provides both choline and cytidine.
Where can I buy choline supplements?
Choline supplements are available over-the-counter (without a prescription). You can purchase them online. They’re also available at retail stores including:
- Grocery stores.
- Drug stores.
- General merchandise retailers.
- Natural food stores.
- Specialty health and nutrition stores.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Choline occurs naturally in many of the foods you eat. However, choline supplements are available if you’re not getting enough choline in your diet. Choline supplements can help reduce your risk of fatty liver disease, muscle damage and other health conditions. Ask your health provider if they think you should add a choline supplement to your daily routine.
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