Current choline intake levels are too low for most Americans, say health and nutrition experts
Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jul 20 2020
On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC or Committee) – a group comprised of 20 nationally recognized health and nutrition experts – published the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Among its findings, the Committee concluded that current choline intake levels are too low for most Americans and found low intake levels among infants and toddlers, as well as vulnerable populations like pregnant and lactating women, especially concerning.
The Committee's scientific report shines a light on the growing body of evidence that shows choline plays a critical role in health during specific life stages.
Unfortunately, consumption data tell us choline is widely under-consumed, and it's concerning that those populations who would benefit most from choline, such as pregnant and lactating women and infants and children, fall short of meeting intake targets. In fact, only 8 percent of pregnant women are meeting choline recommendations."
Marie Caudill, PhD, RD, Professor, Cornell University and an Internationally Recognized Choline Researcher
Choline is an essential nutrient that supports a variety of processes at all stages of life and throughout the body, including fetal and infant development; cognition and memory; energy and fitness; metabolism; and liver health.
While more research is needed for choline to reach the level of a 'nutrient of public health concern,' the Committee recognized choline as a 'nutrient that poses public health challenges' for all infants and toddlers between ages 12 and 24 months; and special attention around choline inadequacies was specifically noted for girls and boys ages 9 to 14; and the vulnerable pregnant population and women who are lactating.
Choline is naturally found in some foods; yet, based on typical and recommended eating patterns, it is difficult to meet daily choline needs through foods alone. In fact, the DGAC presented three food pattern styles, which generally meet all nutrient needs across the lifespan, except for a few such as choline.
Importantly, the Committee noted that many supplements do not yet contain sufficient amounts of choline, indicating an important opportunity for both supplement innovations, as well as food fortification, in the future.
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"The Committee's report clearly highlights the challenges of meeting choline intake targets through food alone," added Caudill. "Americans need guidance on how to choose supplements to help fill nutrient gaps, particularly for pregnant women as most recognized prenatal vitamins don't contain enough–if any–choline."
"Choline's increased recognition in the DGAC report is an important scientific milestone for the public health community," says Jonathan Bortz, MD, Senior Director, Nutrition Science, Balchem. "We are quickly approaching an inflection point in time for choline awareness.
"In addition to the findings released in this report, Balchem has, and will continue to support research needed to develop a blood biomarker for choline, which will provide a more accurate understanding of the level of deficiency among Americans and help to generate stronger guidance and messages."
Choline can be purchased online or in specialty stores as a stand-alone, over-the-counter supplement; incorporated into some prenatal vitamins or packaged along with prenatal vitamins; and fortified in branded milk products, specifically:
- Bayer recently launched a "One A Day Women's Prenatal Advanced Complete Multivitamin with Brain Support," that includes a side-by-side prenatal multivitamin plus a supplement that provides 110mg of choline, helping to substantially close the gap in pregnant women's daily needs.
- Danone's Horizon Organic brand developed milk for young children–Growing Years–that is fortified to contain 55mg of choline per serving, providing between 10 percent to 27 percent of children's daily needs, depending on age and gender.
"The Committee's report has provided critical research directions to help inform Balchem's long-standing commitment to choline research and science communications," added Bortz. "We look forward to continuing to support science and product innovation to ensure all Americans throughout the lifespan can benefit from increased choline, as part of healthy diets."