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Agricultural Research Service

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Good Sources of Dietary Choline Now a Mouse Click Away

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
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 diet.

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.

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