September 2, 2019. While the intake of a plant-based diet has significant benefits, vegans may risk being deficient in choline. Although this essential nutrient occurs in low amounts in beans, nuts and cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, the best sources of choline are meat, eggs and dairy products. Choline is also made by the liver in small amounts.
The US Institute of Medicine has recommended minimum daily intakes of choline of 550 milligrams (mg) per day for men, 425 mg per day for women, 450 mg per day for pregnant women and 550 mg per day for breastfeeding women. The European Food Safety Authority recently established similar daily requirements; however, choline intake in Europe as well as North American is still less than recommended. “Given the important physiological roles of choline and authorization of certain health claims, it is questionable why choline has been overlooked for so long in the UK,” remarked Dr Emma Derbyshire on August 29, 2019 in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. “Choline is presently excluded from UK food composition databases, major dietary surveys, and dietary guidelines.”
In an article whose title asks the question, “Could we be overlooking a potential choline crisis in the United Kingdom?” Dr Derbyshire noted that choline is essential for many functions, including neurotransmitter synthesis, cell structure formation and methylation. Insufficient choline intake may play a role in liver disease and impair cognitive function.
“More needs to be done to educate healthcare professionals and consumers about the importance of a choline-rich diet, and how to achieve this,” she concluded. “If choline is not obtained in the levels needed from dietary sources per se then supplementation strategies will be required, especially in relation to key stages of the life cycle, such as pregnancy, when choline intakes are critical to infant development.”