Natural Health Journals


WHAT IT IS Choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, essential for memory and cognition. Also, it is a phospholipid that helps promote neuronal membrane fluidity, which is important for communication between brain cells. One form of this fat, phosphatidyl choline, is the active ingredient in lecithin–an emulsifier commonly found in processed foods, and derived from either soy or animal sources. In the brain, phosphatidyl choline also plays a role in repairing and maintaining neurons. Choline, lecithin, and phosphatidyl choline are all sold as dietary supplements. According to Khalsa, most people ingest about 1,000 mg of lecithin every day as part of a normal diet, but that amount is not sufficient to promote optimal brain function throughout life.

REPORTED EFFECTS Choline, in its various forms, is widely reputed to enhance cognition and memory not only in people with mild memory impairment, but in normal healthy people as well.

HOW IT WORKS Phosphatidyl choline, the active ingredient in lecithin, helps to replenish the body’s supply of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is crucial for memory, learning, and cognition. Because choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, Chinese medical doctor Efrem Korngold, O.M.D., observed, “Taking choline as a supplement is like supplying the body with a raw material. It can use what it needs.”

THE EVIDENCE Many studies have been conducted on choline. In one early clinical study published in the journal Science in 1978, subjects demonstrated improved performance on intelligence and memory tests after ingesting choline.

CAVEATS Some forms of choline, such as choline bitartrate or choline chloride, can produce unpleasant side effects such as a fishy odor or diarrhea. Lecithin is known to spoil easily, so check dates to be sure what you’re buying is fresh.

FOR OPTIMAL BENEFIT For maximum effectiveness, Khalsa recommends combining lecithin with vitamin B5 and the nutrient DMAE (discussed below), because these three together foster production of acetylcholine in the brain.

DIETARY SOURCES You might be surprised to find lecithin among the ingredients listed on the labels of chocolate candy, instant foods, and baked goods. Interestingly, lecithin does for food just what it does in the human body–it improves fat distribution (the flow and melting of chocolate, for example), reduces viscosity, and lengthens shelf life because of its antioxidant properties. Choline, the essential ingredient in lecithin, is found in grains, beans, cauliflower, and lettuce.

WHERE TO FIND IT Choline, lecithin, and phosphatidyl choline are widely available in health foods stores. A supplement product should contain about 30 to 55 percent PC. You can take about 3 grams per day of choline. Lecithin too can be safely taken in large doses; Khalsa recommends a dose of about 1,500 mg daily for a healthy person with no significant cognitive impairment or deficit, who just wants to enhance cognitive function. Higher doses may benefit patients suffering from memory loss or deficit.


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