Although strictly speaking choline is not a vitamin, it is an essential nutrient that must be consumed in the body to maintain good health. A sufficient daily choline dosage, sometimes referred to as adequate intake (AI), in adults is 550 mg for men and 425 mg for women. An AI for choline is necessary throughout life, and the amount is different for each age group, from infancy to adulthood. In the US, the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine, part of the US National Academy of Sciences, established the AI levels for choline.
Choline can be derived from a variety of dietary sources. These include particular kinds choline-rich meats, fish, vegetables and dairy products. A combination of these foods can satisfy the daily choline dosage and contribute to overall health as well.
Pan fried beef liver is a good source of choline. A three ounce (85.05 g) portion provides about 355 mg of choline to the body. A three ounce serving is roughly the size of a deck of playing cards. A three ounce portion of cooked trimmed beef yields about 71 mg of choline. Cooked Atlantic cod, cooked shrimp, and caned salmon can also contribute to healthy choline intake.
One cup (240 mL) of cooked Brussels sprouts or chopped broccoli will provide around 62 mg of choline. Skim milk and eggs are also a good source of Choline. One egg will add about 172 mg of the nutrient the diet. Choline can be found as well in toasted wheat germ, smooth peanut butter, and milk chocolate.
The FNB found insufficient scientific evidence to establish a recommended daily allowance of Choline. It is recommended, however, that daily choline dosage be limited to something near AI levels. High doses of Choline, between 10 to 16 grams per day, have been reported to result in dizziness, sweating, and nausea. A warning sign of excessive choline intake is a fishy body odor, caused by the release of choline metabolites.
The AI for choline was established primarily to guard against liver damage. An inadequate daily choline dosage can cause a condition called “fatty liver,” which if left unresolved can result in liver damage. Providing appropriate levels of choline to the body can correct this condition. Premenopausal women may sometimes develop a natural resistance to choline deficiency, as estrogen creates its own synthesis of choline in the body. For pregnant females of any age, however, the suggested daily choline intake is 450 mg per day, and it is 550 mg per day for those who are breastfeeding.