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Choline - Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & Warnings

Choline - Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & Warnings
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 8 min read

What is Choline?

Choline is similar in use/benefits to B-vitamins; it is produced in the liver, and is naturally produced by the body, and found in several foods. Beans, liver, fish, nuts, peas, spinach, and eggs, are a few of the food groups which contain high levels of choline.
Choline is a macronutrient which is essential in helping the liver function. It also aids in brain functions and cognition, muscle movement, nervous system function, and can help maintain a healthy metabolism if your body receives sufficient levels of choline on a daily basis. As mentioned above, choline is similar to the B-vitamins, in that it is water soluble.

Choline Metabolism

Choline Metabolism

Some of the benefits of ingesting Choline include:

- Anti-aging benefits. Working as a neurotransmitter, it will help the body look and feel younger with regular consumption.
- Detoxification. Since it is imperative in liver functions, it helps flush out and detoxify your system of impurities.
- Digestive health and support. It can aid in the digestive process, help with a food break down, and help ensure a healthy, functional metabolic system.
Although it is not an essential macronutrient, Choline does help the body with many functions you perform, on a daily basis, several times a day. From digesting the foods you consume after each meal, to helping your body naturally flush itself and detoxify, choline is a water-soluble macronutrient, which should be consumed routinely.

Choline Uses

There are a few different uses for choline, apart from ingesting it as a macronutrient for general health and well-being. Some of the different uses of choline are the following.
1. Liver functions:
For those who suffer liver failure, or if your liver doesn't function 100% as it should, choline can aid in liver functionality. It will not only help flush the system but will help detoxify toxins and build up in your system, which naturally occurs throughout the course of the day. Note, even if your liver functions at its optimal level, choline is beneficial in helping flush and detox the body.
2. Asthma sufferers:
Those who suffer from asthma have been known to rely on the benefits of choline to help with shortness of breath and lack of oxygen to the lungs. Taking choline can help lessen the symptoms and fatigue you experience if you do suffer from asthma. It can also reduce the need to use a bronchodilator if you have difficulties breathing or suffer from shortness of breath.
3. Birth defects:
Research and studies have suggested that women who suffer from neural tube defects may possibly benefit from incorporating choline supplements (or foods high in choline) into their diet. Studies have shown that women who consume foods which are high in choline while they are pregnant are less likely to have complications, such as neural tube defects, at the time they are giving birth.

4. Allergies:

Although studies and research are limited, the use of choline in treating certain allergies is something that some patients rely on as well.
5. Bipolar/mental health:
Those who are bipolar or suffer from certain mental deficiencies might benefit from ingesting choline in high levels. Some of the mood symptoms which individuals who are bipolar suffer from might be lessened when they ingest choline; further, it has been shown to help with memory enhancement, retention, and cognitive capabilities. All of this can benefit those who suffer from mental health conditions, those who have a hard time with their memory retention, or can simply be used by those who want to improve overall cognitive functions and mental capacity, with the inclusion of an all natural supplement form.

Choline Side Effects

If you are taking any prescription medication, it is best for you to discuss the use of choline with your doctor, or a specialist, prior to beginning to use a supplement, or consume foods which are extremely high in choline levels. Although it shouldn't adversely affect other supplements, especially those which are water soluble, it is best if you discuss the use of this (or any other supplement for that matter), with your doctor, prior to beginning a cycle or dose of choline.
Taking choline in high dosage levels, by mouth, can be detrimental to some. Redness, soreness, swelling, or difficulty in breathing, might be some of the side effects that users who are taking extremely high levels are going to experience. However, this is not common, and it is only in cases where levels exceed (in a great deal) the recommended dosage of choline which you should be ingesting.
At appropriate levels, choline is typically safe to take by mouth or IV. Some of the reported side effects from users include:
  1. Diahhrea.
  2. Fishy odor.
  3. Upset stomach.
  4. GI distress and vomiting.
Again, these side effects are not very common; and, as long as the choline dosage is taken at an appropriate level, and is taken in the proper supplement form, you should not experience these side effects.
Increased possibility of contracting colon and rectum cancer is of concern when taking choline as a dietary supplement. Studies suggest that women who have increased extremely high levels of choline are more susceptible to contracting one of these forms of cancer, than those who are not over ingesting levels of choline in their diet. This, however, is not proven, and it is only with exceedingly high levels of choline in the diet, when being used as a supplement for dietary purposes.
If you are going to be giving choline to children, it is also likely safe for use and daily consumption. This is as long as you are not giving them too much, and are using prescription grade choline, which is provided by a licensed doctor and pharmacist.
Choline is water soluble, meaning it is going to pass through the system naturally. And, even in the cases of an overdose, it is highly likely that it is going to work its way through the body shortly after it is consumed. However, for those who are planning on using choline as a dietary supplement, and want to ensure optimal success when using it, it is important to note that there are a few side effects to be familiar with. In the event you do experience any of these, it is best to cease use, and to discuss with your doctor if it is safe for you to use choline as a dietary supplement.

Choline Interactions 

Choline is water soluble. Like the B-vitamins, it is going to flush through the system quickly. It typically will not adversely interact with other medications that you are consuming. If you do take certain prescription medications, or if you are taking other supplements and vitamins, it might benefit you to ask your doctor if it is safe to incorporate the use of choline supplements into the diet as well. Although there are no high known risks, it is best if you are familiar with the possible drug interactions, and the possibility of an overdose, in the event you do consume too many foods, or over-supplement when you are incorporating choline into the diet.
For those who are on prescription medications, it is important to discuss the use of choline with your doctor, or with a specialist, prior to starting the use of a prescription medication. Although it is highly safe, and it is not a toxic chemical or medication, there is always the possibility or risk present that it might adversely affect or interact with other medications or prescriptions that you are currently taking. So, in order to ensure the safest uses possible, prior to beginning the use of choline as a supplement or a dietary aid, it is important for you to discuss the safety, the use, and any possible interactions that it might cause, with other medications or prescriptions you are currently taking.

Choline Warnings

Choline is likely safe for adults and for children. The fact that it is water soluble, means it is not highly toxic. So, even in the case of an overdose, or using it with a prescription that you should not be using while taking choline, it is not going to cause adverse reactions of a toxic nature, which are going to adversely affect your health.
It is important to note that choline is readily found in many foods. So, it is a naturally occurring macronutrient as well. This means if you are consuming it in your diet routinely, it is important for you to check with your doctor, if you plan on taking a supplement as well, in order to ensure it is not going to have an adverse reaction or cause fatigue or other possible side effects which are known when taking choline supplements as a dietary aide.
Choline can be given to children. In most cases, it is going to be prescribed at a lower dosage level than would be prescribed to an adult. But, it is not a toxic supplement, so it is safe for you to give to children, as long as you are aware of the risks, interactions, and as long as you speak to their doctor prior to incorporating it into their diet. When choosing a supplement for children, parents should note that it is best to purchase those which are all natural; and, if possible, to buy a supplement which is made in the US, to ensure it is safe for consumption, and to ensure there are no other byproducts added to the mix, when they are producing the choline supplement.
When choosing a choline supplement, all natural is of utmost importance. You do not want to add something to your body which is foreign or not natural and shouldn't be ingested. For such reason, it is important to know where the supplement is produced, who it is produced by, and what dosage levels you are ingesting when taking a choline supplement as part of a dietary regimen. There are many manufacturers and many pharmacies which do sell and produce choline supplements. So, prior to starting a dosage cycle, as is the case with any other supplement you choose to use, it is important to know the details, and who the producers are, to ensure the safest consumption when you choose to use choline as a dietary supplement.

Ask the right questions

Prior to starting the use of this, or other dietary supplements, it is best for you to discuss choline with your doctor. You should ask if it is safe for you to take when on other prescription medications. You should also familiarize yourself which foods choline is present in, and whether or not taking a supplement and eating those foods, is going to cause a possibility of overdose. If you do have allergic reactions, or if you can't take certain vitamins/minerals, you are also going to want to ask your doctor if it is safe for you to ingest choline supplements, or if you should use different supplements to help increase choline levels in your system.
No matter what you are using the supplement for, from treating a deficiency to help with mental clarity and health, you want to familiarize yourself with its benefits, what it can do for you, and how it is going to interact with your body and any other medications or prescriptions that you are currently taking. As with any other medication, the more you can educate yourself about choline, the better the results with use, and the more likely it is you are going to choose the best supplement when you choose to incorporate this dietary supplement into your daily regimen.
Because there are several supplements and companies which manufacture choline supplements, prior to purchase, it is important to take your time and to research the different products which are available for sale on the market. Doing this is not only going to ensure that it is safe for you to incorporate choline into your diet, but also that you get the most potent, and beneficial product available when you are ready to begin using the water-soluble macronutrient supplement.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.