Americans need more choline

The Food and Drug Administration approved a Reference Daily Intake for choline this year, and it appears more Americans should strive to reach it.

In establishing an R.D.I. of 550 mg, the F.D.A. noted the Institute of Medicine already had established age-specific and gender-specific Adequate Intakes (A.I.s) for choline based on intakes necessary to maintain liver function.

“We are very pleased with the F.D.A.’s recognition of choline as an essential nutrient with a Reference Daily Intake of 550 mg,” said Eric Smith, vice-president of human nutrition and pharma for Balchem Corp., New Hampton, N.Y. “This recognition validates the science that Balchem has supported over many years. We look forward to working with supplement and food manufacturers to leverage this greater visibility for choline to further improve the health and wellness of people around the world.”

Balchem offers VitaCholine, a line of water-soluble choline salts that may be used to fortify a range of supplements and foods. Choline plays a role in maintaining a healthy liver by facilitating the transport of fats out of the liver for conversion to energy, according to the company. In the brain, choline supports lifelong memory function, and recent research suggests that it may lead to improved academic performance among young children and teenagers.

Many Americans do not consume enough choline, according to a study appearing in the February-March issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The analysis aimed to assess usual intakes of choline and compare them with the Dietary Reference Intakes for people age 2 and over in the United States. The National Cancer Institute method was used to assess usual intakes of choline from foods according to data for people in the 2009–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

About 11% achieved the A.I. for choline. Children aged 2–3 were the most likely to exceed the A.I. (63%), followed by children aged 4–8 (45%) and children aged 9–13 (9%). Teenagers of the ages 14-18 were at 2%, and adults aged 19 and over were at 7%. Males consumed significantly more choline than females for all age groups.

“These data indicate that there is a need to increase awareness among health professionals and consumers regarding potential suboptimal intakes of choline in the United States, as well as the critical role that choline plays in health maintenance throughout the lifespan,” the study said. “Food scientists and the food and dietary supplement industries should consider working collectively with government agencies to discuss strategies to help offset the percentage of the population that does not meet the A.I.”