Choline: what is it and why is it important?

Cholin: Was ist das und wofür ist es wichtig?

Choline is a vitamin B-like substance that is produced by our body in small amounts. However, it is particularly important for a functioning transmission of stimuli from nerves to muscles. Choline is necessary to produce the important messenger substance acetylcholine in our body. This messenger substance ensures that stimuli can be transmitted from nerves to muscles.

Since choline is only found in small amounts in our body, you should make sure that you get enough of this substance through your diet or through dietary supplements. This ensures that there is a sufficient amount of choline in your body for your body to function properly. In this guide we would like to clarify all important questions about choline and offer you a detailed overview of this substance.

the essentials in brief

  • Choline is mostly found bound as lecithin in foods such as meat, fish, soy or eggs. Eggs provide the largest choline content.
  • Choline is produced by our body in small amounts, but should still be taken in through diet or dietary supplements.
  • Without choline, our body could not produce the very important messenger substance acetylcholine. This messenger substance is a neurotransmitter that is necessary for the transmission of stimuli from nerves to muscles.

Background: what is choline and what is it used for?

In our guide you will find all the answers to the most important questions about choline and its effect on our body.

What is choline and what is it composed of?

Choline is a nutrient that was only discovered not so long ago.

Choline should definitely be ingested through diet.

It wasn't recognized as an essential nutrient until 1998.(1) While choline is produced by the body in some quantity, it's important to get this nutrient through your diet or through supplements.

model of a brain

Choline ensures optimal functioning of your body and brain. (Image source: Robina Weermeijer / unsplash)

This will prevent you from developing a choline deficiency in your body and ensure that your body and brain function optimally. Choline is very important for human health and also for the functioning of the body and brain. Choline is a vitamin-like substance that is part of lecithin along with inositol. (2)

Which foods contain choline?

Choline is found in different foods. It is found in vegetarian, vegan and animal products. These foods contain significant amounts of choline:

Groceries Choline content in mg per 100g
meat (liver) 520mg
eggs 270mg
soybeans 116mg
peanuts 95mg
fish (herring) 179mg

Most of the time, however, choline is not found in the free form in these foods, but bound as lecithin. This is a mixture of choline-containing compounds. (3)

What is choline good for?

Choline plays several important roles in our body. This substance used to be called vitamin B4 because it was similar to the vitamin B group. Today, however, the independent name choline is used.

For one, choline helps support liver function. It also helps maintain normal homocysteine ​​metabolism to prevent cardiovascular disease. (4) Choline is also involved in building cell walls and ensures a functioning fat metabolism, which supports healthy weight management.

Choline also plays an important role in the growth of nerve tracts and helps in the processing of fats. The chemical structure of choline shows that this substance is a monohydric alcohol.

What is the effect of choline?

The effect of choline is not limited to a single property in the body, but is very broad. As already mentioned, choline contributes to the growth of nerve tracts. It also contributes to the construction and strengthening of cell membranes.

In addition, choline increases both memory and liver capacity. Choline ensures communication between cells and also regulates blood pressure. However, you should be careful here, because too much choline can cause blood pressure to drop too much.

Pregnant women in particular should consume choline, because choline ensures that the nerves and brain of the fetus can be built up during pregnancy by supplying the fetus with choline via the mother's blood.

Men with a slightly elevated homocysteine ​​concentration can lower the concentration of homocysteine ​​in the plasma with a high daily dose of choline. High levels of homocysteine ​​can promote cardiovascular disease, so taking choline can prevent such diseases. (5)

Is choline harmful to our body?

Choline is not harmful to our body. However, very high levels of choline (10 to 16 grams per day) can cause a fishy body odor, vomiting, drooling, and increased sweating. (6) It can also lead to a drop in blood pressure, which can result in dizziness.

A sustained intake of choline at 3 grams per day can also be harmful to humans. Namely, it can lead to liver damage instead of supporting its function.

For whom is choline suitable?

In principle, everyone is recommended to consume choline through diet, as our body can only produce small amounts of choline. However, if you suffer from a choline deficiency, then you should definitely take choline.

There are various symptoms that indicate a choline deficiency. From the functions of choline listed above, one can recognize the symptoms of a possible deficiency. So if you tend to have a fatty liver, a choline deficiency could be to blame, since choline is precisely responsible for maintaining liver function.


Lecithin is found in varying amounts in nature. For example, soybeans contain a lot of vegetable lecithin. (Image source: Polina Tankilevitch / pexels)

However, you should always have a possible choline deficiency diagnosed by a doctor and not act on your own, because the symptoms can also have other causes. Healthy people who do not have a choline deficiency can also take additional choline, for example to improve their memory.

What does lecithin do in the body?

Most choline is found in the body in the form of lecithin. Lecithins are fat-like substances from which the body releases unsaturated fatty acids and choline. (7) Lecithins take on important functions in the body. They are involved in fat metabolism by distributing and converting or breaking down fats taken from food.

The body cells are also stabilized by lecithins because they are part of the cell membrane. Lecithin strengthens both the brain and nerve cells. It is said to help with concentration disorders and improve performance.

Lecithin protects the liver cells and their functioning.

Lecithin is also part of the mucus layer of the intestines and lungs. Phospholipids such as lecithin are also required for metabolism. The liver is our main detoxification organ. Lecithin protects the liver cells and ensures that the liver functions properly.

Where is lecithin found?

Lecithin occurs naturally and in body cells of living beings. The body can produce the substance itself, but the quantities are not sufficient. Therefore, you should also take the substance through your diet or through dietary supplements.

Since lecithin is found in both living beings and plants, a distinction is made between plant and animal lecithin. Vegetable lecithin is found in the following foods:

  • soybeans
  • sunflower seeds
  • peanuts
  • linseed
  • corn sprouts
  • hemp seeds

Animal products contain a particularly large amount of lecithin. Among these products, egg yolk contains a particularly large amount of lecithin. Offal such as the heart, liver and brain are also very rich in lecithin. (9)

Is choline supplementation useful?

Due to the low content of choline in the human body, it makes sense to supplement this substance. You should always pay attention to the amount you personally need for your body and for your life situation.

Choline tablets and measuring tape

When it comes to supplementation, choline is usually taken in capsule or tablet form. (Image source: Diana Polekhina / unsplash)

Men do not need the same amount of choline as women. Pregnant women also have different choline needs that need to be met. (10) The following values ​​can help you:

life stage Men (mg/day) women (mg/day)
0-6 months 125mg 125mg
7-12 months 150mg 150mg
1-3 years 200mg 200mg
4-8 years 250mg 250mg
9-13 years 375mg 375mg
14-18 years 550mg 400mg
19+ years 550mg 425mg
pregnancy - 450mg
lactation - 550mg

These are guide values ​​that are primarily intended to ensure that the liver does not suffer any damage and that the formation of acetylcholine can function properly so that the stimuli from the nerves can be transmitted to the muscles.

What Types of Choline Supplements Are There?

There are different types of choline supplements. However, the most popular type of supplementation is in capsule or tablet form. However, there is also the possibility of taking choline via an infusion.

However, this should always be prescribed and, above all, carried out by a doctor beforehand. In addition, the infusion is possible only if there are no other diseases affecting the body. An infusion is considerably more expensive and complex than choline capsules or tablets.

What are the side effects of choline supplementation?

Although choline supplementation is important for our body, it can also have negative effects on our body over time. For example, taking too much choline over a long period of time can lower blood pressure or even damage the liver.

Too much choline in the body can have negative effects on your liver and blood pressure.

So you should always check with a doctor before you start supplementing to make sure you aren't harming your body.


Overall, one can say that choline plays a very important role in our body, both for our brain and for our liver. With an animal diet, it is easier to consume enough choline, as meat products and eggs contain larger amounts of it.

If you follow a vegan diet, then you need to make sure you're consuming enough plant-based products that contain choline or consuming choline through supplements to ensure your daily choline needs are met. Nevertheless, you should always ask a doctor for help before taking supplements for a longer period of time, because too much choline can also harm your body.


  1. Zeisel SH, da Costa KA. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health. Nutr Rev. 2009 Nov;67(11):615-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x. PMID: 19906248; PMCID: PMC2782876. Source
  2. Romano KA, Vivas EI, Amador-Noguez D, Rey FE. Intestinal microbiota composition modulates choline bioavailability from diet and accumulation of the proatherogenic metabolite trimethylamine-N-oxide. mBio. 2015 Mar 17;6(2):e02481. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02481-14. PMID: 25784704; PMCID: PMC4453578. Source
  3. Kürschner, Bernd, (2016). Eggs and lecithin for a better memory? Retrieved February 25, 2021 from Source
  4. Hollenbeck CB. An introduction to the nutrition and metabolism of choline. Cent Nerve Syst Agents Med Chem. 2012 Jun;12(2):100-13. doi: 10.2174/187152412800792689. PMID: 22483274. Source
  5. Olthof MR, Brink EJ, Katan MB, Verhoef P. Choline supplemented as phosphatidylcholine decreases fasting and postmethionine-loading plasma homocysteine ​​concentrations in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):111-7. doi: 10.1093/ajcn.82.1.111. PMID: 16002808. Source
  6. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998: pages 390-422. Source
  7. Lecithin: vital substance for the brain. Gutmann, Juliane (2018) Source
  8. Lecithin: vital substance for the brain. Gutmann, Juliane (2018) Source
  9. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998: pages 390-422. Source
  10. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998: pages 390-422. Source
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