A plant-based diet has many of health benefits, including promoting a healthy gut microbiome, giving you lots of vitamins and minerals, and helping you get plenty of fiber. However, you may be missing out on a essential dementia-fighting nutrient if you avoid animal fats: Choline.
Choline is only found primarily in animal fats and is an important brain nutrient in helping prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Choline doesn’t only support the brain — which is made of primarily fat, by the way. It also ensures healthy liver function, which is necessary to detoxify the body and lower chronic inflammation. A choline deficiency promotes fatty liver.
Choline is also part of cell membranes, which function as the cellular command center in directing cell function and communication. Choline deficiency can impair cellular function.
Choline is found in meats, fish, dairy, and eggs. Much smaller amounts are in nuts, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables. The liver also makes a small amount, but not enough for the body’s needs.
Researchers say the diet must be rich in choline to meet the body’s needs.
The majority of Americans are choline deficient
Sadly, most people do not get enough choline. Some are genetically predisposed to a choline deficiency. The growing popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets also contributed to raising rates of choline deficiency.
It’s recommended your daily intake of choline be about 425 mg a day for women and 550 mg a day for men.
Beef liver and egg yolk are the two richest sources of choline. In fact, people who eat eggs regularly have higher levels of choline.
Additionally, pregnant women who eat at least one egg a day are eight times more likely to meet choline recommendations than those who don’t.
Most of us don’t eat beef liver these days, but you can take beef liver capsules — about 6 capsules a day. Look for pure, grass-fed sources.
Choline is necessary for the infant brain
It is recommended pregnant and breastfeeding women get about 930 mg of choline a day as it is necessary for the developing child’s brain.
Choline is also necessary for the adult brain
Choline is known as a vital brain nutrient for adults too. A mouse study showed a choline-rich diet improved memory and brain function in mice with dementia symptoms and their offspring.
Choline supports the brain in several ways:
- It reduces homocysteine, an amino acid that is inflammatory and toxic to the brain if levels are too high. High homocysteine doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Choline prevents this by converting homocysteine to the helpful compound methionine.
- It dampen activated microglia, the brain’s immune cells that inflame and damage brain tissue when triggered.
- Choline is a component of acetylcholine, the brain’s memory neurotransmitter. Acetylcholine is required for memory and healthy brain function.
Choline also helps regulate gene expression.
Choline is just one of the many essential nutrients necessary for healthy brain function. Ask my office how we can help you support your brain health.