the science of nutrition

Why is Choline so important?

Paula James-Martinez

Table of contents

  • Intro
  • What is Choline?
  • Why is Choline Important for Your Health?
  • Why is Choline Important during Pregnancy?
  • Best Food Sources of Choline
  • Choline Additives and Supplements
  • The Bottom Line

0 min read


If you are newly pregnant you may have heard some buzz around – Choline. 

It’s actually a relatively recently discovered nutrient, only acknowledged as an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine in 1998. But even though it’s a newer health revelation, this organic, water-soluble compound is crucial for various bodily functions, and critical for infant brain development. Studies show that as many as 90 percent of people are not meeting the recommended intake, so while the body produces some, it's vital to ensure you're getting enough from your diet and supplementation. 

What is Choline?

Choline falls under the category of essential nutrients, meaning it's necessary for normal bodily functions. While the liver can produce small amounts, a significant portion must come from your diet. Not quite a vitamin or mineral, Choline is often grouped with the Vitamin B complex due to its similarities. It plays a pivotal role in liver function, brain development, muscle movement, and metabolism, emphasizing the need for adequate intake for optimal health.

Why Choline is So Important for Your Health?

Choline is a multitasking nutrient involved in various bodily processes, including cell structure, cell messaging, fat transport and metabolism; It is essential for making a substance required for removing cholesterol from your liver.  Choline and other vitamins, such as B12 and folate, also help with a process that’s important for DNA synthesis, and maintaining a healthy nervous system. The production of acetylcholine, a crucial neurotransmitter, relies on choline and is essential for memory, muscle movement, and basic bodily functions.

Why is Choline Important during Pregnancy?

The benefits of Choline for before, during, and after pregnancy are clear, and yet most women of childbearing age do not consume nearly enough from food and their prenatal vitamins. 

Choline is an important part of DNA synthesis and cell membrane structure. The need for prenatal Choline is extremely high in the first weeks and months of fetal development, as fetal cells are growing and differentiating.

Choline is also required for normal functioning of the body, and is especially important around pregnancy in supporting proper uptake of Omega-3 DHA, overall development of the baby including healthy brain and eye development, and a mothers own health and wellbeing.

In fact, a recent study found that children at 1 year of age had significantly increased information processing speeds when their mothers consumed 930 mg/day of choline. Results from a randomized controlled feeding study found that offspring of mothers who received 930 mg/day of choline had improvements in sustained attention assessed at 7 years follow-up compared to those exposed to 480 mg/day. 

Best Food Sources of Choline

The most concentrated sources of choline are found in beef liver, chicken liver, eggs, fresh cod, salmon. The richest vegetarian sources include cruciferous vegetables like, cauliflower, broccoli, and legumes, soybean oil top the list of choline-rich foods. Consider adding these to your diet to support optimal choline intake.

Choline Additives and Supplements

It’s important to highlight that 92% of pregnant women in the US have an intake that is below the adequate intake recommendation for choline, and the majority of dietary prenatal supplements available do not contain choline or adequate amounts of choline, often 50 mg or less.

Needed’s Prenatal Multi Capsules and Powder contain 400 mg of a bioavailable form of Choline, in the form Choline Bitartrate (VitaCholine™).  Needed’s Choline add-on is dosed at 250mg of Choline per capsule, to support those who are not regularly eating foods rich in Choline and desire additional supplementation to achieve a higher intake of Choline. 

The Bottom Line

In summary, Choline is an essential nutrient that is often overlooked during the perinatal stage. Its impacts on placental development, brain health, and even transfer of nutrients across the placenta have far reaching and long-term implications for mom and baby. While eating Choline rich foods is a great place to start, most moms will benefit from complimenting their diet with a high-quality prenatal that includes a meaningful amount of Choline. 

Needed does not offer medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information disseminated on this website or by Needed is not intended to replace medical advice. Before taking any action, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional.
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Paula James-Martinez, Filmmaker and Editorial Director

Paula James Martinez is a creative producer, filmmaker, and former fashion editor. She is the director and producer of film company Semi-Retired Productions, and in 2018, started working on her directorial debut on the documentary Born Free, which investigates the truth about birth and maternity in America. She has since founded a non-profit organization The Mother Lovers to raise awareness of the US maternal health crisis.