Choline: the "other" B vitamin
The Birds and the B’s: It’s time to have the Talk*
*This is the seventh of eight articles in our series on B vitamins
The B-complex vitamins belong to the group of vitamins known as the water soluble vitamins. There are technically 8 B-complex vitamins. These include, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (Niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), Biotin, vitamin B12, and Choline (the unofficial B vitamin).
The specific function of each of the individual B-complex vitamins varies, yet they all play an important part in energy production. More specifically, all of the B-complex vitamins perform as cofactors for numerous major enzymes in the human body. Without the presence of these vitamins, many of the enzymes necessary for the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrate would not function properly.
Choline is often denoted as the “unofficial” B vitamin. It is one of the water soluble vitamins. The water soluble vitamins include all of the B vitamins and vitamin C. The fat soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. Unlike the fat-soluble vitamins, the water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and must be replenished daily. The water soluble vitamins are also easily destroyed during cooking, especially when food is cooked in water, and during storage.
Why do we need Choline?
Choline has recently been declared to be an essential nutrient although it can be produced within the body by the amino acids serine or methionine. Choline plays some extremely important roles in the body. It works in partnership with the other B vitamins and is required for proper fat metabolism. Without the presence of adequate amounts of Choline in the body, fats will become trapped in the liver. This will result in the fats blocking metabolism. In other words, Choline is vital for removing fat from the liver. This is referred to as a “lipotropic” effect.
We also need Choline because it is required in order to create the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Choline is also essential for the make up some of the vital components of our cell membranes.
Since Choline is required for the removal of fats from the liver, a deficiency of Choline in the diet may lead to fatty liver disease and a decrease in fat metabolism.
Raw vegan sources for Choline
Soy lecithin is a good vegan source of Choline. While it is not raw, soy lecithin is used by some raw foodists because it makes a good thickener for foods like desserts. Legumes also provide a good source for Choline. Other raw vegan foods that contain Choline include:
- Grapes/grape juice
- Iceberg lettuce
- Whole wheat
A tolerable upper intake of 3.5 grams of Choline has been established for safety. This means that taking more than 3.5 grams of Choline each day may lead to health problems.
Please speak with a trusted healthcare practitioner if you are concerned about your Choline intake.
Written by: Angela Coate-Hermes
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These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. The preceding information and/or products are for educational purposes only and are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, or treat illness. Please consult your doctor before making any changes or before starting ANY exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using this information or any product during pregnancy or if you have a serious medical condition.
Marz, Russell. Medical Nutrition from Marz. Portland, OR: Oni-press, 1999.
Murray, Michael and Joseph Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of healing Foods. New York: Atria Books, 2005.