of Dietary Choline Now a Mouse Click Away
By Rosalie Marion
March 16, 2004
A new specialty database is now
available to help people get healthful amounts of the nutrient choline in their
diets. The database can be accessed online, free of charge, at the
Agricultural Research Service's Nutrient
Data Laboratory (NDL) web
site. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The database provides researchers and consumers with the means to estimate
daily choline intake from consumption of the more than 400 foods listed.
Choline is an important dietary component that, among other functions, helps
the body absorb and use fats, including those that become part of cell
membranes. Choline also helps the body use acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter
that sends signals across nerve endings.
Experts suggest that an adequate choline intake is 425 milligrams (mgs) a
day for women and 550 mgs a day for men. Top sources of choline include meat,
nuts and eggs. The database shows that one large hard-boiled egg provides 112
mgs of choline- -more than 25 percent of the daily adequate intake for women.
The choline database was produced by lead nutritionist Juliette C. Howe,
with nutritionists Juhi R. Williams and Joanne M. Holden of the NDL in
Beltsville, Md. The work was done in collaboration with choline researcher
Stephen H. Zeisel and chemist Mei-Heng Mar, University of North Carolina (UNC)--Chapel Hill.
Scant analytical data on the choline content in foods existed before the
two-year ARS project began. The foods included in the new database were
individually analyzed at the UNC.
A small segment of the population will use the database to minimize their
intake of choline. For these individuals, accumulated trimethylamines (choline
byproducts made by intestinal bacteria) cause a fishlike body odor. The
resulting condition, trimethylaminuria, is controlled by a choline-restricted
To access the choline database, go to:
Under the red heading, Food Composition Products, click on
"Choline." The database will come up as a PDF file, which can be
studied online or printed.