Ok- I admit it, I watch Dr Oz every night! I enjoy the health promoting aspects of the show but mainly I like to understand better how people think, behave and make choices about their food and health. Last night I was watching a little quiz with two teams (each with 4 people) where nobody knew that eggs were a high source of Choline. This made me think….
Choline is an important nutrient for cell integrity and production of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. Choline is essential during pregnancy for brain development and normal neural tube closure. A lack of Choline in adult dietary intake can lead to a fatty liver,memory problems as well as liver and muscle damage. In addition, Choline reduces circulating levels of Homocysteine, an amino acid which has been associated with an increased risk of Cardiovascular disease and more recently with Alzheimer´s disease. Choline can be found in high amounts in eggs, liver and wheat germ, it is also synthesized by the body itself in smaller amounts. Recent surveys have shown that dietary intake of Choline is inadequate and that requirement for Choline could be dependent on an individual´s genetic make up.
So I was pondering over the possible cause for this low dietary intake and what problems this could cause for future generations. Firstly I confess that I don´t eat liver,I don´t like the smell or the taste and to my knowledge, none of my friends do either. In addition, with popular shows like the “Biggest loser” (yes I watch that too) promoting egg white-only wraps must reduce intake of choline -rich egg yolks in a lot of people. I think maybe the years of fear over eggs causing high Cholesterol and seeing images of caged hens standing in their own feces in numerous documentaries, has also resulted in people shunning the protein rich food. This message possibly has caused people to associate eggs with cholesterol and not Choline,hence the lack of knowledge. It may take years before eating habits change again.
Choline also functions in combination with Vitamin B12 and Folic acid. As the dietary intake of fruit and vegetables is low across the globe especially in younger children and breakfast frequently skipped, our future generation will have no doubt serious issues. The health effects on those individuals with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP´s) on genes that affect the Folate metabolism and endogenous Choline synthesis & metabolism may be affected more especially when coupled with low dietary intake…. the answer hopefully lies in Nutrigenomics.
So if we want to age healthily, keep our mental faculties sharp and help our children thrive at school; eat wholegrain foods (high in wheatgerm), eat whole eggs preferably boiled and for those who love liver….enjoy! start with good habits today.
Zeisel S.H. Choline: Critical role during fetal development and dietary requirements in adults.Annu Rev Nutr 2006;26:229-250
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