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The Essential Benefits of Choline

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BY: A. ELIZABETH SLOAN

Session 23
Sunday, July 12; 10:30 a.m.–noon
Room S504abc

Choline is an essential nutrient that has lifelong impact on cognition and memory, supports healthy vision, and has the ability to prevent and reverse fatty liver disease. In 1998, the Institute of Medicine established choline as an essential nutrient. Choline-rich foods include eggs and liver, but these foods are not generally consumed daily, and plant foods are relatively low in choline content. The result is that nine in 10 Americans do not get enough choline, including almost all adults. However, choline remains one of the least known or talked about nutrients among physicians, the nutrition community, and consumers. Those not consuming at least the Adequate Intake of choline—425 mg/day for women, 550 mg/day for men, 450 mg/day for pregnant women, and 550 mg/day for lactating women—should supplement their diet with choline.

The human brainCholine directly affects the area of the brain that supports memory and higher-level thinking, including visuospatial memory—the kind you use to remember where your car is parked at the airport. Children born to mothers with higher choline intakes showed improved academic performance at age seven years compared with children born to mothers with lower choline intake. Choline status early in life can protect against dementia in aging.

Steven Zeisel, Kenan distinguished professor in the Dept. of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina and director of the Nutrition Research Institute there, will talk about how choline affects development of the brain and eye and its lifelong effects on memory and intelligence. He will also discuss choline’s role in liver metabolism and protection from fatty liver disease.

Marie Caudill, professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, will talk about how choline supports fetal development, preventing neural tube birth defects and other adverse health consequences during pregnancy, and how it also supports women’s health over a lifetime.

Taylor Wallace, affiliate professor, Dept. of Nutrition and Food Studies, George Mason University, will present the picture for the United States, showing that almost all adults fail to consume the Adequate Intake for choline, meaning we are all choline deficient.

Presented by: Steven Zeisel, University of North Carolina; Marie Caudill, Cornell University; and Taylor Wallace, George Mason University.

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