Choline - properties, symptoms and effects of deficiency

Choline - properties, symptoms and effects of deficiency

Choline, also known as vitamin B4, is present in the human body primarily in phospholipids. Where can we find vitamin B4? What role does choline play in the organism? What are the symptoms and effects of deficiency or excess of this vitamin? You ask, we answer.

Choline (vitamin B4) - what role does it play in the organism?

Choline plays a number of important roles in the body. Vitamin B4:

  • takes part in the production of lecithin, a phospholipid that is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system and regulates liver function;
  • takes part in the regulation of lipid metabolism;
  • regulates the functioning of the respiratory system;
  • regulates the functioning of the circulatory system and takes part in controlling muscle function;
  • supports the formation of myelin sheaths, which protect nerves;
  • participates in the formation and maintenance of the correct structure of cells;
  • contributes to the formation of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter required to regulate brain function;
  • reduces the risk of developing cancer;
  • a diet rich in choline may also reduce the risk of dementia.

Choline (vitamin B4) is important for pregnant women.

Vitamin B4 is very important in the diet of pregnant and breastfeeding women. Choline is essential for the brain as well as spinal cord development of the unborn child and also reduces the risk of having birth defects. A diet rich in choline can provide lasting cognitive benefits for children with Down syndrome and protect them from Alzheimer's disease.

In addition, vitamin B4:

  • improves blood flow in the placenta;
  • supports the transport of nutrients through the placenta;
  • reduces your baby's risk of developing type II diabetes;
  • reduces the baby's risk of hypertension.

Recommended products with choline

What are the effects of choline deficiency?

Choline deficiency leads to an excessive accumulation of cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver leading to hepatic steatosis. As a consequence, chronic inflammation may develop in the liver which may lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis or even organ failure.

Apart from liver problems, other symptoms of vitamin B4 deficiency are:

  • headaches;
  • poor memory and concentration;
  • mood swings and anxiety;
  • constipation;
  • muscle fatigue.

In pregnant women, choline deficiency can increase the risk of central nervous system defects of the baby. Consequences of choline deficiency in pregnancy include:

  • weakening of the child's immune system;
  • impaired intellectual development later in life.

What is the danger of excess vitamin B4 in the body?

Excessive intake of choline is rare. The consequences of an excess of vitamin B4 in the body are:

  • diarrhoea;
  • nausea;
  • excessive sweating;
  • a drop in blood pressure.

What are the natural sources of choline (vitamin B4)?

Choline is produced in the liver in small amounts, so it must be supplied with the diet.

The main sources of vitamin B4 are:

  • yeast;
  • eggs;
  • wheat germ;
  • nuts;
  • fish;
  • dry pulses;
  • liver and other offal;
  • beef.

Choline in supplements

In groups at risk of choline deficiency (alcohol abusers, athletes), supplementation with vitamin B4 may be necessary. It is available in supplements most often in the form of choline bitartrate extracted from eggs or fish meat.

Vitamin B4 intake requirement

Choline standards for the Polish population have been set at the level of adequate intake (AI). It is recommended to consume between 150 and 550 mg of choline per day, with a daily intake of:

  • in infants up to 6 months 125 mg;
  • in infants up to 11 months - 150 mg;
  • in children between 1 and 3 years of age - 200 mg;
  • in children between 4 and 9 years of age - 250 mg;
  • in boys between 10-18 years of age - 375 to 550 mg;
  • in girls between 10-18 years of age - 375 to 400 mg;
  • in adult men, 550 mg;
  • in adult women - 425 mg;
  • in pregnant women - 450 mg;
  • in breast-feeding women, 550 mg.

The need for choline grows in situations of irritability and increased nervous tension, as well as with an incorrectly balanced diet. Vitamin B4 is also recommended in states of liver overload due to improper diet, alcohol or medication. Higher demand for vitamin B4 is also shown by:

  • pregnant and breastfeeding women;
  • postmenopausal women;
  • athletes.


  1. Ylilauri M i inni. Associations of dietary choline intake with risk of incident dementia and with cognitive performance: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2019
  2. Cornell University. More choline for pregnant, nursing women could reduce Down syndrome dysfunction, guard against dementia. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2010.
  3. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998
  4. Bułhak-Jachymczyk B., Witaminy, [w:] Normy żywienia człowieka. Podstawy prewencji otyłości i chorób niezakaźnych, [red.] M. Jarosz, B. Bułhak-Jachymczyk, IŻŻ, PZWL Wydawnictwo Lekarskie, Warszawa, 2008, 172–232
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