Choline intake linked to healthy brain function

August 02, 2013

Choline is a B-complex vitamin. Our body uses Choline to create phosphatidylcholine; a nutrient needed to create the cellular membrane (or outer coating) of each of our cells. Choline also helps transport lipids (fats) out of our liver.

Choline is the precursor to acetylcholine, the brain chemical involved with memory. Acetylcholine is simply an acetyl group tagged onto Choline. Acetylcholine is crucial to memory and learning and the level of acetylcholine drops in our brain with age - it is basically nonexistent in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

A tea of researchers from Boston University School of Medicine analyzed data on almost 1,400 adults taking part in the long-running Framingham Study. The subject’s ages ranged from 36 to 83. They underwent a series of memory and cognitive ability tests and also underwent MRI scans of their brain.

Men and women with higher Choline intake performed better on memory tests than those reporting lower intake. The findings suggest that people with a lower Choline intake are more likely to be on a pathway toward mental decline than their counterparts with higher intake.

A very important finding was that people with higher Choline intake at the outset were less likely to show areas of white matter hyperintensities on their MRI brain scan. Visualizing white matter hyperintensities in MRI scans of the brain reflects pockets of damage to the small blood vessels that feed and nourish the brain. The brain does not survive for long without oxygen and microvascular damage results in a decrease in oxygen supply and it is associated with both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The study is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 94, Number 6.