Choline

Choline is a vital nutrient which is deficient in the diets of most Americans today. It is vital for overall health and helps prevent disease across the lifespan. Choline plays an important role in how the body functions, particularly with regards to the brain and nervous system, cell functioning, and liver metabolism.

Choline Important for Brain Development

Research over the years has suggested that choline plays an important role in the brain development of fetuses. This was initially observed in rat studies, in which the offspring of rats which ate higher amounts of choline were superior in terms of memory and intelligence. Further studies have shown that choline may play a role in preventing memory decline which may occur with aging.

A 2004 study of over 50,000 men showed that having a lower IQ may be associated with a higher risk of developing a psychotic disorder, particularly schizoaffective disorder, at some point in life 1. With regards to choline, studies such as these suggest the importance of adequate choline in the diet of pregnant women in terms of decreasing the risk of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

Another study conducted on 6 schizophrenic individuals in 2008 showed a reduction in schizophrenic symptoms after they took a combination of CDP-choline and another substance known as galantamine 2. Galantamine is a medication which has been used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

While much further research is still needed, the possibilities for a supplement such as choline to both reduce the risk of schizophrenia and also help treat symptoms provide hope when it comes to this very serious psychiatric disorder.

Taking choline as a supplement has been associated with lowering the risks for birth defects, heart disease, breast cancer, and dementia. Some people take it to help reduce cholesterol levels and enhance memory functioning, as well as provide protection to the liver.

Choline-rich Foods

Choline can be purchased as a supplement, but is also contained in a variety of foods. Some choline-rich foods include egg yolks, milk, beef, salmon, cod, broccoli, oranges, wheat germ, oat bran, peanuts, bananas, cauliflower and liver.

Precautions

If taken in excess, choline can cause side effects. These may include chest pain, sweating, difficulties breathing, decrease in appetite, excess saliva, vomiting or diarrhea.

written by Dr. Cheryl Lane, PsyD

References

  1. Link Between IQ and Psychosis Risk
  2. First Administration of Cytidine Diphosphocholine and Galantamine in Schizophrenia: A Sustained α7 Nicotinic Agonist Strategy

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