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Dietary choline associated with reduced risk of dementia

University of Eastern Finland

choline in eggs

Dietary intake of phosphatidylcholine - sourced mainly from eggs and meat - is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, and enhanced cognitive performance.


Choline is essential for normal brain development, and for brain function thoughout life, but lacking from many modern diets, as the main dietary sources are liver and other organ meats, eggs, and other meats and fish - i.e. animal foods. (Of plant foods, only soy provides any meaninful amount of choline - so vegans and vegetarians are at articularly high risk of deficiency).

Animal studies have long shown that deficiencies of choline in early life permanently impair brain development, significantly increasing risks for age-related cognitive decline and dementia. 

Clearly, similar lifelong human clinical trials are not feasible - but t
his new study confirms a significant link between lower dietary choline intakes in adults and higher risks for dementia.

There are many different mechanisms to explain the essentiality of choline for brain health - and how deficiencies can contribute to the degenerative processes underling not only Alzheimers disease, but other neurological and psychiatric disorders.

  • Choline is structurally essential component of brain and nerve cell membranes. It plays key roles in the metabolism and transport of fats - and is needed for liver health, and for transport of the essential omega-3 fat DHA into the brain.
  • It is needed to make acetylcholine - a major neurotransmitter involved in attention, cognition and memory as well as muscular control (and target of the only current medications specifically approved for managing dementia symptoms) - and choline also influences many other aspects of cell signalling, including gene expression and regulation. 
  • Choline works in synergy with Vitamins B6, B12 and folateas well as omega-3 DHA, so a lack of choline can increase risks for deficiencies of these nutrients, which are already strongly implicated in age-related cognitive decline and dementia.

Read the underlying research here:

And for more information on choline, and its fundamental importance for brain health, see:

6 August 2019 - MedicalXpress 

A new study by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland is the first to observe that dietary intake of phosphatidylcholine is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Phosphatidylcholine was also linked to enhanced cognitive performance. The main dietary sources of phosphatidylcholine were eggs and meat. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Choline is an essential nutrient, usually occurring in food in various compounds. Choline is also necessary for the formation of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. Earlier studies have linked choline intake with cognitive processing, and adequate choline intake may play a role in the prevention of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. In fact, choline is nowadays used in a multinutrient medical drink intended for the treatment of early Alzheimer's.

The new study now shows that the risk of dementia was 28 percent lower in men with the highest intake of dietary phosphatidylcholine, when compared to men with the lowest intake. Men with the highest intake of dietary phosphatidylcholine also excelled in tests measuring their memory and linguistic abilities.

These findings are significant, considering that more than 50 million people worldwide are suffering from a memory disorder that has led to dementia, and the number is expected to grow as the population ages. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, for which no cure currently exists.

The new findings may, therefore, play a vital role in the prevention of dementia. Successful dementia prevention is a sum of many things and in this equation, even small individual factors can have a positive effecton the overall risk, possibly by preventing or delaying the disease onset.

"However, this is just one observational study, and we need further research before any definitive conclusions can be drawn," Maija Ylilauri, a Ph.D. Student at the University of Eastern Finland points out.

The data for the study were derived from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, KIHD. At the onset of the study in 1984–1989, researchers analyzed approximately 2,500 Finnish men aged between 42 and 60 for their dietary and lifestyle habits, and health in general. These data were combined with their hospital records, cause of death records and medication reimbursement records after an average follow-up period of 22 years. In addition, four years after the study onset, approximately 500 men completed tests measuring their memory and cognitive processing. During the follow-up, 337 men developed dementia.

The analyses extensively accounted for other lifestyle and nutrition related factors that could have explained the observed associations. In addition, the APOE4 gene, which predisposes to Alzheimer's disease and is common in the Finnish population, was accounted for, showing no significant impact on the findings.

The key sources of phosphatidylcholine in the study population's diet were eggs (39 percent) and meat (37 percent).