Continuing looking into deficiencies, this week falls to choline. What actually is choline and what is the effect of being deficient? Even on a strict Paleo diet, is it still possible to be deficient?
The precursor for acetylcholine is choline, which is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for memory and it is a very important part of two important phospholipids. The liver uses this to process fats within the body and to package lipids.
What symptoms should you look for that indicates you might be low in choline?
- Elevated ATL levels – it’s the elevated alamine transaminase levels which could indicate you have a liver complaint that can be often caused by a choline deficiency. Research has shown that a fatty liver can be caused by low levels. As Choline is the precursor for acetylcholine which is involved in memory – impaired memory can often be a symptom of deficiency. Research carried out showed that patients given a supplement had improved memory.
- Lower VLDL – while reducing VLDL might improve your lipid panel it can also see you end up with a fatty liver due to the fat not being packed away properly into lipoprotiens for dispersal.
How can a choline deficiency occur?
Offal is such a good source of choline that avoiding it could inadvertently result in a choline deficiency.
How can you add choline to your diet?
When it comes to choline, it’s all about eggs and offal! Beef liver contains by far the highest levels, as measured per 100 grams of food. In descending order the food with the highest levels are: veal liver, chicken liver, raw egg, turkey liver, turkey heart, wheat germ, bacon, pork loin and mutton.
You can also gain choline from the following foods, but in much smaller amounts: artichokes, cauliflower, pecans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, macadamia nuts, almonds, pine nuts, cashews, chicken, pistachios, canned prawns, cod, ground beef and turkey gizzard.
Most nuts and seafood seem to be good sources, but when it comes to vegetables the levels vary – for example while Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower are good sources of choline, boiled kale hardly has any. Fruits and milk contain even less choline than vegetables, but some spices are good sources of choline, but as they are often used in such small amounts, they tend not to be reliable sources.
Unfortunately none of these foods come anywhere close to the amount of choline found in eggs and organs – liver and eggs alone have ten more times the amount present than most vegetables. It is the egg yolk that contains the most choline – not the egg whites. A 100 gram serving of just the egg yolks has 683 mg of choline while the same size serving of egg white only has 1.1 mg. To be able to eat an equal amount of both you would get 3 times more choline from your eggs if you threw the whites away.
Do you have much offal in your diet? I’d love to hear if choline levels are a concern to you – and also how you get offal into your Paleo diet?