We haven't paid much attention to choline until fairly recently, despite it being an essential nutrient that is fundamental for many functions in the body.
The body does produce some choline itself, but this often isn't adequate to cover our requirements, so we need to make sure that we regularly eat foods containing choline. Recent research also suggests many of us may not be consuming enough to meet requirements, especially pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and children. People with conditions affecting absorption of nutrients from food may also struggle to get enough choline.
Choline is essential for cognitive health and foetal development
Choline plays a vital role in cognitive health and brain function, and as efficiency of choline use by the brain decreases with age, deficiency has been associated with dementia, Alzheimer's Disease and depression. It also regulates gene expression and is essential for neural tube, cognitive and retina development in the foetus, and for placental health. Choline has also been associated with liver function, and deficiency may play a role in reduced bone mineral density and cancer.
How much do I need?
Recommendations vary by country. The current recommendations for Europe are:
Infants 7-11mths: 160mg/d
Children: 140mg/d (1-3yrs)
170mg/d (4–6 yrs)
250mg/d (7–10 yrs)
340mg/d (11–14 yrs)
400mg/d (15–17 yrs)
Pregnant women: 480mg/d
Breastfeeding women: 520mg/d
Eggs are a great source of choline
Eggs (particularly yolks) are a great source of choline: 2 eggs will cover around half of your daily requirements. Seafood, meat, soy, almonds and peanuts are also good sources.