Choline, an essential nutrient
Date: 2017-05-26
Author: Belinda Fay
Access: Public

Choline is an essential nutrient that has similarities to the B vitamins. Although the human body makes some choline, choline needs to be obtained through the diet to avoid a deficiency.1,2

Foods rich in choline
Choline is found in a wide variety of foods including liver, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, peas, spinach, wheat germ, milk and peanuts.1-3 Egg yolks are the most concentrated source of choline. A single egg will provide about 20-25% of your daily requirement of choline.4-6

Are you getting enough choline?
Choline is essential to health at all ages, but individuals with an increased need for choline include pregnant women, postmenopausal women and endurance athletes. Include a variety of meats and green vegetables in your diet to help you meet your choline requirements.5

What does choline do?
The role of choline in the body is complex. Choline is involved in a broad range of functions ranging from cell structure to the synthesis of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain). Choline deficiency is thought to influence diseases of the liver, cardiovascular system, nervous system and the brain.4

What is the association between choline and inflammation?
Diets lacking in choline may promote inflammation in healthy humans.
In 2008 the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the finding that reduced levels of choline, as well as betaine (trimethylglycine, a derivative of choline), is linked with a higher concentration of inflammatory markers in the blood. The study was the first to show that a diet rich in choline (and betaine) can positively influence normal, healthy inflammation.7,8

Diets high in choline help with healthy heart function by lowering inflammatory markers in the body (such as homocysteine, an amino acid).7 Patients with elevated levels of homocysteine may have an elevated risk for inflammation.7

Choline and betaine not only work together to decrease homocysteine, but they are also involved in ‘turning off’ genes involved in inflammation. Adequate levels of choline are associated with a normal, healthy relationship between the immune system and the inflammatory response.7,9

Inflammation and the immune system
Inflammation is the body’s normal immune response to injuries or infections. When the immune system detects a threat to the body, such as a virus or injury, it responds by activating proteins, which in turn protect cells and tissues.10

In a healthy or acute situation, inflammation is your friend. Sometimes inflammation can last for months or years, turning into a chronic type inflammation, where the immune system may be overworked.10

Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about looking after your health with an individualised treatment regimen that includes a combination of a balanced diet, high-quality supplementation and exercise.

To find a healthcare practitioner in your local area, use our Find a Practitioner service.


  1. Choline. WebMD 2017. Viewed 27 April 2017,
  2. Choline. Micronutrient information centre, Linus Pauling Institute 2017. Viewed 27 April 2017,
  3. Choline. Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand 2014. Viewed 1 May 2017,
  4. Zeisel SH, da Costa KA. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health. Nutr Rev 2009;67(11): 615–623.
  5. Brown MJ. What is choline? An essential nutrient with many benefits. Authority nutrition 2017. Viewed 1 May 2017
  6. Olthof MR, van Vliet T, Boelsma E, et al. Low dose betaine supplementation leads to immediate and long term lowering of plasma homocysteine in healthy men and women. J Nutr 2003;133(12):4135-4138.
  7. Zeisel SH. Is there a new component of the Mediterranean diet that reduces inflammation? Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(2):277-278.
  8. Reduced choline and betaine levels correlate with higher levels of inflammation. Life extension 2008. Viewed 28 April 2017,
  9. Detopoulou P, Panagiotakos DB, Antonopoulou S et al. Dietary choline and betaine intakes in relation to concentrations of inflammatory markers in healthy adults: the ATTICA study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(2):424-430.
  10. What is inflammation? Pub Med Health 2015. Viewed 3 May 2017,