Key to regulating anxiety, learning, and memory, choline is a brain-builder. This cousin of B-vitamins is used to make the most common fat in all cells – phosphatydlcholine – and is a key ingredient of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is needed for learning and memory. Choline is also key to regulating inflammation. It has only been an Institute of Medicine “essential nutrient” since 1998. While data indicates that people who consume more choline have lower levels of anxiety, the average American doesn’t get nearly enough in their diet. Compounding this, about half of the US population has a specific genetic change that greatly increases their need for choline.

Eating foods rich in choline is particularly important for pregnant women and kids as it plays a crucial role in brain development (it’s required in infant formula). For everyone, it is vital to methyl group donation, a process fundamental to good energy, moods, and focus.

Choline deficiency increases your risk of heart disease, liver disease (specifically “fatty liver”) and brain disorders like depression, anxiety disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. All of these have been linked to an increased levels of homocystiene, something that you lower by getting enough choline in your diet.

One reason for low intake is that the absolutely best source of choline – eggs – often aren’t consumed due to concerns about cholesterol.

Drew Ramsey, MD

Drew Ramsey, M.D. is a psychiatrist, author, and farmer. He is a clear voice in the mental health conversation and one of psychiatry’s leading proponents of using nutritional interventions. He is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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