If you’re a typical American, there’s a 90 percent chance you’re deficient in an essential nutrient even if you take it as a supplement.
It’s been known for decades that a low intake is bad news for your liver. But new findings suggest this deficiency will not only wreak havoc on your heart and other organs but will increase your risk of brain disease – including Alzheimer’s.
More than 90 percent of Americans are not meeting the recommended daily intake for …this nutrient – choline…
That’s right, chances are good that you’re deficient in the nutrient choline, even if you’re taking a supplement. The National Institutes of Health writes: “Even when choline intakes from both food and dietary supplements are combined, total choline intakes for most people are below recommended amounts.”
Deficiency of choline can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which affects more than a third of the U.S. population. But the liver isn’t the only organ to be concerned about. New findings show a deficiency of choline has profound negative effects on the heart and other organs, including changes to the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Multiple Organ Damage
The new research was led by scientists at Arizona State University (ASU) and their investigation built upon their previous studies. For example, the prior studies showed spatial memory of female mice improved when they were fed a high choline diet throughout life. Best of all, their offspring also displayed the same improvements. By the way, spatial memory allows us to navigate around different places and remember where objects are located.
In the latest study the ASU team conducted experiments on normal mice and others genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease. They were fed diets with either adequate amounts of choline or inadequate amounts of choline. All mice were aged between three to 12 months, roughly equivalent to 20 to 60 years of age for humans.
Compared to the mice fed a choline adequate diet, normal mice on a choline deficient diet developed liver damage, weight gain, harmful changes to glucose metabolism, and enlargement of the heart. They also showed dysregulated proteins in the hippocampus – a key area for learning and memory – and performed poorly in a test of motor skills. All these problems also occurred in the mice genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease but to a much greater extent.
In the mice genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease, there were elevated levels of plaque-forming amyloid-beta and modifications to tau protein. These changes are characteristic of those leading to damaging neurofibrillary tangles in the brain that are indicative of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers conclude their paper, published in the journal Aging Cell in January, by writing that “adequate choline intake is important for health across a variety of bodily systems; metabolic, cardiac, liver, and neurological. If generalized to humans, these findings may help mitigate the estimated increase in the prevalence of AD and illustrate the importance of adequate dietary choline intake throughout adulthood to offset disease occurrence for the general population.”
A Two-Fold Problem
Co-lead author Jessica Judd commented, saying, “What I found particularly compelling about this project was that multiple organs, whose malfunction can have implications for brain health, were negatively impacted by a choline deficient diet.”
Ramon Velazquez, senior author of the study, explained that in the case of humans “it’s a two-fold problem.”
“First, people don’t reach the adequate daily intake of choline established by the Institute of Medicine in 1998. And secondly, there is vast literature showing that the recommended daily intake amounts are not optimal for brain-related functions. Our work provides further support that dietary choline should be consumed on a daily basis given the need throughout the body.”
Although diets have been deficient for a long time, it’s become an even bigger problem today because of the latest dietary trend toward choline-deficient, processed foods.
How To Get Enough Of This Dietary Essential
On top of the new findings, choline is established as necessary to build cell membranes, produce acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in memory, muscle control and mood – and lower homocysteine, a neurotoxic byproduct of the dietary essential amino acid methionine.
The richest sources of choline are meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs. But in recent years increasing numbers of people are turning to plant-based diets. Those eating such a diet will need to ingest choline from cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage), potatoes, beans, peanuts, and sunflower seeds. But these sources provide too little to meet the recommended daily levels of 425mg for women and 550mg for men.
What’s more, even these amounts may be too low. They were calculated long ago to prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease but, as Dr. Velazquez points out, are not optimal for proper brain health and cognition. Under these circumstances, regardless of the chosen diet, supplementation of this important nutrient is critical.
Supplementing With Choline
We’ve always written about the importance of choline to a healthy brain. It’s essential if you want to not only maintain your memory but sharpen it.
That’s why our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, formulated Advanced Brain Power. It contains a patented form of choline, called Cognizin®, which is shown in a study published in the The Journal Nutrition to improve overall memory performance, especially episodic memory, in older men and women with age-associated memory impairment.
You can learn more about it, here.