What Are the Most Common Choline Side Effects?

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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Choline is a chemical compound similar to and often included in the category of B vitamins. This nutrient is said to be important to the development of fetuses and infants, but is also thought to be beneficial in keeping the liver and cell membranes healthy in teenagers and adults. Although this substance is thought to be safe, too much of it can cause adverse reactions. Some of the most common choline side effects can include a pungent, fish-like body odor, diarrhea, and lowered blood pressure.

Though there is no official standard for how much choline should be taken on a daily basis, it is believed that most adults can tolerate up to 3,500 mg (or 3.5 grams) per day. Taking more than this amount can result in uncomfortable or potentially life threatening reactions. It is considered rare to develop certain side effects by consuming foods that contain this chemical; however, they can easily develop by taking too much in a supplement form. One of the most common side effects of over-supplementation is body odor. This odor is generally strong and may be similar to the scent of fish.


In addition to an unusual body odor, choline side effects due to taking too much of the supplement can result in excessive perspiration. This increase of perspiration may make the fish-like scent more noticeable, as the increase of moisture is a byproduct of the chemical being metabolized and excreted from the body. These symptoms can easily be remedied by lowering the dosage of the supplement or consuming fewer foods that contain choline.

Other common choline side effects are excessive salivation and stomach-related problems. Those taking this supplement or eating large portions of food that contain this chemical may develop an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. Additionally, some may experience a sudden lack of appetite.

Some people may develop allergic reactions or experience drug interactions, though such problems are uncommon. Allergy-related choline side effects can include a rash or hives, a swelling of the throat or tongue, and shortness of breath. Some prescription medications, including those for liver problems, neurological issues, and heart conditions, may negatively interact with this chemical, so it is important to speak with a physician prior to starting a choline supplement. Although more research needs to be done on the subject, some fear that another potential but uncommon side effect is an increased risk of colon cancer, especially in women.


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Post 2

I think more often than not people don't get enough choline, rather than getting too much. It's mostly present in things like meat and eggs, which obviously vegetarians and vegans might not get enough of, but also women on diets and so forth.

Apparently the main reason they know what choline side effects are is because there are some people who can't break it down properly, and they are the ones who develop the fishy odor, not because they overdose on the vitamin, but because they can't remove it properly from their bodies.

So, I wouldn't worry so much about getting too much of this vitamin and check rather to see if you are getting enough.

Post 1

One of the good things about choline when it comes to side effects is that it is a water soluble vitamin, which means that it will leave the body with urine and possibly even sweat.

So even if you are worried about having taken too much of it somehow, the side effects should be temporary.

Of course, if it is true that an additional side effect might be certain kinds of cancer, I imagine through long periods of exposure, then that's not a risk that will go away.

It's better not to take too many vitamin pills in case this happens. Although some people advocate taking massive doses of some of them, like vitamin C, you should make sure the pills you are taking don't include other kinds of vitamin, like choline, which are harmful when taken in large doses.

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