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Choline is a recently discovered nutrient.
It was only acknowledged as a required nutrient by the Institute of Medicine in 1998.
Although your body makes some, you need to get choline from your diet to avoid a deficiency.
However, many people are not meeting the recommended intake for this nutrient (1).
This article provides everything you need to know about choline, including what it is and why you need it.
What Is Choline?
Choline is an essential nutrient (2).
This means it’s required for normal bodily function and human health. Though your liver can make small amounts, you must obtain the majority through your diet.
Choline is an organic, water-soluble compound. It is neither a vitamin nor a mineral.
However, it is often grouped with the vitamin B complex due to its similarities. In fact, this nutrient affects a number of vital bodily functions.
It impacts liver function, healthy brain development, muscle movement, your nervous system and metabolism.
Therefore, adequate amounts are needed for optimal health (1).
Serves Many Functions in Your Body
Choline plays an important part in many processes in your body, including:
Cell structure: It is needed to make fats that support the structural integrity of cell membranes (3).
Cell messaging: It is involved in the production of compounds that act as cell messengers.
Fat transport and metabolism: It is essential for making a substance required for removing cholesterol from your liver. Inadequate choline may result in fat and cholesterol buildup in your liver (4, 5).
DNA synthesis: Choline and other vitamins, such as B12 and folate, help with a process that’s important for DNA synthesis.
A healthy nervous system: This nutrient is required to make acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter. It’s involved in memory, muscle movement, regulating heartbeat and other basic functions.