Choline is a water-soluble vitamin-like essential nutrient, a basic constituent of lecithin that's present in many plants & internal organs of animals. Choline is associated with many functions including memory and muscle control. Humans produce choline in the liver. The benefits of taking dietary or supplemental choline have not yet been conclusively proven. But research shows that choline reduces the risk of neural tube defects and fatty liver disease. Taking choline during pregnancy may have long-term beneficial effects on memory for the child.

While none of the Western countries like Australia, New Zealand, United States, etc have published recommended daily intakes for Choline, they have published Adequate Intake (AI) values.

What foods are rich in choline? Choline is naturally found in foods such as liver, fish, nuts, beans, peas, spinach, wheat germ and eggs.

A new Cornell study on choline benefits suggests evidence that expectant mothers who eat adequate amounts of choline during pregnancy provide their babies with enduring mental benefits. The study was strictly designed to demonstrate mental benefits in the babies of pregnant women who eat a daily quantity that was almost double the presently recommended amount of choline during their last trimester.

Half the women in this study were given 480 mg/day of choline, slightly more than the adequate intake level, while the other half were given 930 mg/day. The researchers then tested the babies after they were born - at 4, 7, 10 and 13 months of age for information processing speed and visuospatial memory.

While babies in both the groups had significant intellectual benefits, information processing speeds were significantly faster for the group of expectant mothers who had been given 930 mg/day when compared with the group that were given only 480 mg/day over the same period.

The researchers advise increasing dietary choline intake by eating egg yolks, lean red meats, fish and poultry during pregnancy. Women who don't eat animal based foods must consider a choline supplement that provides choline at a level comparable to 450 mg/day.

The US Institute of Medicine (IOM) provides the following values:

Infants 0-6 months 125 (mg/day)

Infants 7-12 months 150

Children

1-3 yrs 200 mg/day

4-6 yrs 250 mg/day

7-8 yrs 250 mg/day

9-10 yrs 375 mg/day

11-13 yrs 375 mg/day

Boys

14 yrs 550 mg/day

15+ yrs 550 mg/day

Girls

14 - 18 yrs 400 mg/day

For pregnant women- 450 mg/day

For breastfeeding women- 550 mg/day

At present, the choline intake recommendations were generalized from studies done in men as no studies had been performed on the daily adequate intake requirements during pregnancy