Thursday, November 13, 2008


Choline is not a vitamin, a mineral, a protein, a carbohydrate, or a fat, but it’s usually lumped in with the B-vitamins, so heeeeere’s choline! In 1998, 138 years after this nutrient first was identified, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) finally declared it essential for human beings. The IOM had good reasons for doing so. Choline keeps body cells healthy. It’s used to make acetylcholine, a chemical that enables brain cells to exchange messages. It protects the heart and lowers the risk of liver cancer. And new research at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) shows that choline plays a role in developing and maintaining the ability to think and remember, at least among rat pups and other beasties born to lab animals that were given choline supplements while pregnant. Follow-up studies showed that prenatal choline supplements helped the animals grow bigger brain cells. True, no one knows whether this would also be true for human pups, er, babies, but some researchers advise pregnant women to eat a varied diet, because getting choline from basic stuff like eggs, meat, and milk is so easy. IOM’s Food and Nutrition Board, the group that sets the RDAs, has established an AI (Adequate Intake) for choline.

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