Key vitamin to support healthy methylation, cell function and neurotransmission
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While long considered a non-essential vitamin, recent evidence confirms that the body cannot synthesize enough choline to meet daily needs. This has prompted the National Academy of Science to create a daily value for choline of 550 mg. Dietary intake of choline is often below this level. Choline is an important nutrient for methylation, cell membrane structure and neurotransmission, and lipid metabolism and transport. Choline and its metabolites are the major source of methyl groups in the diet. Methylation plays many roles including neurotransmission, vitamin assimilation, DNA synthesis and gene regulation. Choline is required for the synthesis of phospholipids and acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in attention, learning and memory. Certain genetic variations in MTHFD1 and PEMT, enzymes that play critical roles in methylation and phosphatidylcholine synthesis, respectively, have been associated with increased dietarycholine needs. Since the de novo synthesis of phosphatidylcholine requires the estrogen-inducible PEMT enzyme, women with low estrogen levels and/or certain SNPs in the PEMT gene have increased choline needs. Postmenopausal women with lower estrogen have higher dietary choline requirements because of reduced PEMT function. Choline requirements also increase during pregnancy. One clinical trial showed that women who consumed 480 mg of choline daily during pregnancy had offspring with faster processing speed than those who did not. A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial suggests that higher intakes of choline also promote healthy hepatic fat metabolism.