Why Choline matters for babies, tots and mama
What to Know
- Learn why choline is critical for your health
- How much choline you need by gender and life stage
Choline is a water-soluble nutrient necessary for healthy cell membranes. It’s part of acetylcholine, a key chemical involved in memory function in the brain and infant brain development, specifically in memory and learning functions. Choline is also involved in liver metabolism and, like all nutrients, important to overall health.
So how much choline do you need? We don’t have enough data to establish official “Recommended Daily Amounts” for choline because it was only recognized as an essential nutrient in 1998, and the research is still emerging. We do, however, have daily choline estimates by age, gender and life stage:
- Babies 0 – 6 months require 125 mg
- Infants 7 – 12 months require 150 mg
- Children 1 – 3 years require 200 mg
- Children 4 – 8 years require 250 mg
- Children 9 – 13 years require 375 mg
- Boys 14 – 18 years require 550 mg
- Girls 14 – 18 years require 400 mg
- Adult men 19 – 70+ years require 550 mg
- Adult women 19 – 70+ years require 425 mg
- Pregnant women 14 – 50 years require 450 mg
- Breastfeeding women 14 – 50 years require 550 mg
Infant formulas manufactured in the United States do contain choline.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women have increased choline needs because the nutrient is transported to the placenta and fetus during pregnancy (and transferred to breastmilk while nursing), depleting a mother’s supply.
Choline can be made by the body, but not in sufficient amounts for what it needs. Therefore, it is essential to get additional choline through your diet and, for some, supplementation.
Several foods are rich sources of choline, including: shrimp and other seafood (scallops, tuna, cod, wild salmon, sardines), poultry (chicken and turkey, especially chicken liver), beef, pork, egg yolks, milk, peanuts, beans, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, swiss chard, cauliflower and spinach.
What to Do
Include choline-rich food sources in your diet regularly
It is estimated that only 1 in 10 Americans meet the recommended guidelines for choline. Familiarize yourself with the foods high in choline and track which you eat over the course of a usual week so you can determine if, along with any supplements you take, you’re meeting the recommendations. This is especially true if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Your Happy Family Coach can help you assess your dietary pattern and choline intake.
Continue to include choline-rich foods in your children’s diets.
Make sure to eat the whole egg (yolk and white together) to get the choline (and the full nutrient value of eggs)
Check your multivitamin to see what amount of choline it contains
Compare the amount to the amount recommended for your gender and life stage. Most multivitamins and prenatal vitamins do not contain any choline or contain insufficient amounts of choline to meet established adequate intakes.
Zeisel, Steven H and Kerry-Ann da Costa. “Choline: An Essential Nutrient for Public Health.” Nutr Rev. Volume 67. Issue 11 (2009): pages 615-623.