Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Choline is important for many cellular pathways such as the making of Acetylcholine. It plays a key role in cognitive function, cardiovascular function, and infant development.

Jiang, 2014 Maternal choline supplementation: a nutritional approach for improving offspring health?

Jiang, 2014 [R]

Introduction to Choline

Choline is an essential water-soluble nutrient that all humans must consume.
At least theoretically, most humans get enough from dietary sources, though some populations have higher requirements. As is the case with many essential nutrients, there may be benefits to supplementation with supra-dietary amounts both generally and in patients with high risk of deficiency [R, R].

The molecule can be oxidized to betaine or phosphorylated (addition of phosphoryl group) to phosphocholine in cells [R].

Choline is needed in order to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is required for cognitive and muscular function [R].

It is also very important in breaking down Homocysteine [R].

Choline Snapshot

If you’re interested in a supplement that provides a full package approach to superior cognitive function and health, we recommend Qualia, which contains Choline and many other great brain boosting ingredients.  Use the coupon code ‘selfhacked’ and get 10% off a 1 time order or 15% off of a recurring order.

Choline Snapshot

  • Longevity8.5/10
  • Inflammation8.5/10
  • Mood9.0/10
  • Cognition9.5/10
  • Energy8.0/10


  • Helps liver function
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Great for brain function, especially since it increases myelin
  • Good for physical and mental performance
  • Good for mood


  • Doesn’t taste good
  • Expensive
  • Need to take Alpha-GPC or CDP-choline to have cognitive effects

Health Benefits of Choline

1) Low Choline Levels Will Cause Liver Damage


Choline is needed to make Phosphatidylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine is important in breaking down lipids in the liver [R].

Therefore low choline levels can lead to lipid accumulation in the liver.

In a study conducted in healthy adults, a large percentage of subjects exposed to low choline diets developed fatty liver disease and other liver problems [R].

These effects were reversed when more choline was introduced into the diet [R].

Liver damage caused by low choline may in turn cause obesity, hypertension, or insulin resistance [R].

2) Choline May Decrease Inflammation


Choline has been shown to decrease levels of inflammatory response factors in the body [R]. Agonism of some acetylcholine receptors is directly anti-inflammatory [R].

Choline may therefore improve symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as Asthma.

3) Choline Is Required To Build Myelin And Increases Myelination

Choline is an important nutrient for myelin, which is critical for intelligence and IQ [R].

In animal models of multiple sclerosis, CDP-choline exerted beneficial effects on myelin, oligodendrocytes and axons [R].

After drug-induced demyelination, CDP-choline effectively enhanced myelin regeneration and reversed motor coordination deficits [R].

The increased remyelination arose from an increase in the numbers of proliferating oligodendrocytes and oligodendrocyte precursor cells [R].

4) Choline Can Help Improve Cognitive Performance


Acetylcholine is an essential molecule within the nervous system.

Without acetylcholine the nervous system cannot transmit information within the body [R].

Cognitive decline often occurs, in part, because of a shortage of acetylcholine [R].

By increasing choline intake, subjects can increase acetylcholine levels, decrease cognitive decline [R] and protect the nervous system from degeneration [R].

A study showed that subjects taking CDP-choline caffeine beverages had improved cognitive abilities [R].

Some studies have shown that CDP-choline can improve memory [R].

Another study showed that CDP-choline can help improve a subjects attention [R].

5) Choline Can Help Improve Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease

Trials have shown that increased choline intake has improved symptoms of patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease [R].

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder caused by the deterioration of motor neurons, which causes stiffness and trembling in extremities [R].

Studies have shown that choline may help to relieve these symptoms [R].

6) Low Choline Levels May Increase Risk of Cancer


High levels of Homocysteine are a known risk factor for Cancer [R].

Without the choline needed to break down Homocysteine, the risk of developing cancer may theoretically increase [R].

However, one study found that higher choline levels were associated with an increased risk of lethal prostate cancer [R].

Choline is highly concentrated in prostate cancer cells, and blood concentrations of choline have been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer [R].

A study showed that high levels of choline in the diet could decrease the risk of developing breast cancer [R].

The study also showed that mutations in the gene that breaks down choline could increase the risk for breast cancer [R].

Bottom line: Choline is a vital nutrient in preventing breast cancer.

7-9) Choline May Help Schizophrenia, Bipolar and Autism

Schizophrenia and autism can be caused by maternal iron deficiency during gestation [R].

In rats, it was found that prenatal choline supplements can help reduce the likelihood of at-risk subjects developing these disorders later on in life [R].

Schizophrenia and autism developed due to genetic predispositions may also be avoided by prenatal choline supplements [R].

In a study performed on subjects with Schizophrenia, subjects taking CDP-choline showed improved cognition and working memory after treatment [R].

A few studies have shown that choline could help treat bipolar disorder and may be a useful complement to pharmaceutical interventions [RR].

10) Choline May Improve Recovery of Those Suffering From Brain Injuries


Recovery from brain injury can be a lengthy and even lethal proccess[R].

CDP-choline has been shown to help the brain recover from traumatic injuries [R].

11) High Levels of Choline May Help Increase Athletic Performance

A study showed that high levels of Alpha GPC, a source of choline, helped improve weight lifting and athletic performance [R].

Subjects showed muscle damage when on a low choline diet [R].

12) High Levels of Choline May Decrease Appetite

Levels of CDP-choline of 2000mg/day were shown to decrease a subjects appetite [R].

13) Choline May Help Treat Drug Addiction

Some evidence has shown that CDP-choline can help reduce addiction to drugs such as cocaine [R].

14) Choline is Essential to Fetal Development

Choline is very important in fetal development.

Many pregnant women do not consume enough choline [R].

In the early years of infancy while the mother is breastfeeding, it is important that the mother consumes high amounts of choline [R].

Choline is essential in building the nervous system, promotes cell division and tissue expansion [R].

As a necessary precursor to acetylcholine, choline is crucial to the development of the fetal brain [R].

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are caused by maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and are characterized by “physical anomalies, neurodevelopmental abnormalities, and neurocognitive deficits, including intellectual, executive, and memory deficits”[R].

Studies have shown that choline may help mitigate the symptoms of such disorders [R].

15) Choline is Important in Determining Gene Expression During Development

Gene expression is an important part of determining an individual’s characteristics.

Some genes in the body may be turned off while others are turned on.

Most aspects of gene expression are determined during fetal development [R].

Some genes are turned off through DNA methylation while other genes remain on [R].

Betaine, a choline metabolite, is essential in providing methylation enzymes with methyl groups [R].

Without a source of methyl groups, methylation cannot occur and gene expression cannot be altered.

16) Low Choline Levels May Prevent Proper Lipid Metabolism in The Intestines

Phosphatidylcholine is essential for lipid metabolism within the intestines [R].

Because choline is needed to make phosphatidylcholine, low choline levels can limit production.

A study done in lactating rats showed that low choline levels led to higher levels of unmetabolized lipids in the intestines [R].

It was also shown that low choline levels lead to a reduction of absorptive intestinal surface area [R].

17) Choline May Help Improve Symptoms of Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease caused by pressure behind the optic nerve. The disease can lead to blindness.

A study showed that when subjects with the disease were given CDP-choline, symptoms of Glaucoma were significantly improved [R].

This suggests that treatment with choline could be a complement to other treatments for Glaucoma [R].


Humans given low choline diets in a study had more creatine phosphokinase (CPK) leakage from cells [R].

This leakage caused cell death and DNA damage [R].

Choline Has a Mixed Effect on Cardiovascular Disease

Choline supplies methyl groups for methylation [R].

Without available methyl groups Homocysteine cannot be converted to Methionine [R].

Homocysteine therefore remains in the system and accumulates [R].

This accumulation can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease [R].

CDP-choline has also been shown to slightly lower blood pressure, which may help in preventing cardiovascular disease [R].

However, choline gets degraded by the gut microbiota to TMAO and increased TMAO levels are associated with an increased risk of incident major adverse cardiovascular events [R].

Buying Choline

If you’re interested in a supplement that provides a full package approach to superior cognitive function and health, we recommend Qualia, which contains Choline and many other great brain boosting ingredients.  Use the coupon code ‘selfhacked’ and get 10% off a 1 time order or 15% off of a recurring order.

Both Alpha GPC and CDP choline are good sources of choline that reach the brain.  I personally take Alpha GPC.

Any of the following are good.

Alpha GPC:

CDP Choline:

Dietary Sources and Dosing

Foods that are rich in choline include [R]:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Liver
  • Nuts

Vegans are more likely to be at risk of having low choline levels [R].

The recommended levels of choline intake per day are as follows:

  • Adult men should consume 550 mg of choline per day   [R].
  • Adult females should take 425 mg of choline per day [R].
  • Pregnant females should take 450 mg of choline per day [R].
  • Nursing females should take 550 mg of choline per day [R].

Risks and Side Effects of Choline

Side effects of taking choline supplements may include upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea [R].

However, one study found that higher choline levels were associated with an increased risk of lethal prostate cancer [R].

Choline is highly concentrated in prostate cancer cells, and blood concentrations of choline have been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer [RR2].

Choline gets degraded by the gut microbiota to TMAO and increased TMAO levels are associated with an increased risk of major adverse cardiovascular events [R].

Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick

At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.

That’s why I decided to create tools that will help others cut down the guesswork:

  • Lab Test Analyzer – a software tool that will analyze your labs and tell you what the optimal values are for each marker — as well as provide you with actionable tips and personalized health and lifestyle recommendations to help you get there.
  • SelfDecode – a software tool that will help you analyze your genetic data from companies such as 23andme and ancestry. You will learn how your health is being impacted by your genes, and how to use this knowledge to your advantage.
  • SelfHacked Secrets – an ebook where we examine and explain the biggest overlooked environmental factors that cause disease. This ebook is a great place to start your journey if you want to learn the essential steps to optimizing your health.
  • SelfHacked Elimination Diet course – a video course that will help you figure out which diet works best for you
  • Selfhacked Inflammation course – a video course on inflammation and how to bring it down
  • Biohacking insomnia – an ebook on how to get great sleep
  • Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
  • BrainGauge – a device that detects subtle brain changes and allows you to test what’s working for you
  • SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (13 votes, average: 4.31 out of 5)


  • Pearl

    Wondering if there is an increased propensity for cardiovascular decease and prostate cancer how much of Alpha GPC is a safe amount to take for a female with propensity to cardiovascular decease and a male with propensity to prostate cancer. Correct amounts for each accordingly please. Thank you.

  • Piedad Rangel

    I have been constipated my entire life. Now realize that maybe taking choline could be a good alternative for me. I am vegetarian and do not consume too much eggs and cheese.
    Do you suggest me to take it?
    Thanks, great article.

  • Lang

    I feel great on CDP-Choline with the exception that i can’t sleep. Any way around it? Brain doesn’t want to stop. Taking in the AM, but maybe it’s delayed and working evening and nights?

  • Doug

    I read that Chris Masterjohn debunked the TMAO-Choline thing. Also, any truth to the idea that too much choline can tank cognition (biphasic)?

  • Marie

    Hi Scott,
    Curcumin is a major player in prevention or controlling prostate cancer ! Further, resveratrol, dark fruit, berries [polyphenols].

  • Attila

    Maybe DMB found in olive oil can help to mitigate TMA then TMAO formation:

  • Issie

    I’m finding that upping acetylcholine is being a great help to me. I’m rotating CDP choline and Huperzine A. Having recently learned I’m positive for Lupus Anticoagulant and thinning my blood with herbals and this combination – some very complex issues are greatly improving.

    On Health rising, some of us are finding this to be beneficial.


    1. Issie

      The other big help, that I left out is pregnenolone. Really gives a boost in energy and brain function.


  • David

    Under: 6) Low Choline Levels May Increase Risk of Cancer you also say
    “However, one study found that higher choline levels were associated with an increased risk of lethal prostate cancer [R].
    Choline is highly concentrated in prostate cancer cells, and blood concentrations of choline have been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer [R].”
    So I’d say this puts quite a damper on your Go Choline pro egg industry ‘scientific’ rant.

  • Nolan

    Excellent writeup.

    CDP-Choline was shown to increase SIRT1 in neurons and confer some protection from the deleterious effect of stroke:

    “Citicoline (CDP-choline) increases Sirtuin1 expression concomitant to neuroprotection in experimental stroke.”

  • Alice Aman

    What about help for a fatty liver (NAFLD)? Which version of Choline is best for that? Or is there another supplement one should take (besides having a healthy diet).?

  • Scott Murray

    I do not eat red meat and eat chicken and turkey occasionally. I have a history of prostate cancer in my family . I want to make sure I get enough choline for brain and body health but am concerned about the cancer risk.
    How much is safe to take and do you have any suggestions??
    Thanks !

    1. Natcha M

      Supplements? Also you can get it in egg yolk, soy, sunflower, and liver. Not that soy is healthy. ~Team SelfHacked

  • Paul
    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      Thanks, it’s a good thing I also take resveratrol

  • anna burns

    What about getting choline from lecithin? It’s in a whole food form and seems would be more bioavailable. I really like sunflower seed lecithin, not so hot about soy lecithin. Just wondering your opinion. Thanks

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.