Recent articles suggest that vegetarians may be deficient in a little-known nutrient, choline. However, a well-designed plant-based diet can provide a sufficient dose.
Recent scientific articles warn that vegans, babies and the elderly could suffer alterations in their development and in their brain function due to a lack of choline in their diet. The liver could also be damaged.
An article published in the British Medical Journal Nutrition, Prevention & Health draws attention to the potential risks of choline deficiency during the developmental stages. According to the author, nutritionist Emma Derbyshire, this risk is increasing due to the rise of essentially plant-based diets.
CHOLINE IS FOUND IN MANY PLANT FOODS
The hill, located in the membrane of the cell, where he is serving various physiological functions certainly found in greater amounts in foods such as meat and beef liver. However, it is also found in milk and eggs – suitable for lacto-ova vegetarians – and in plant foods such as broccoli or chickpeas.
The emphasis on the alleged risk to vegans has raised the suspicions of the Vegan Society of the United Kingdom (Vegan Society). This organization highlights that the researcher belongs to the Meat Advisory Panel, a group of experts that defends the health benefits of red meat.
WHAT IS THE REQUIRED DOSE OF CHOLINE?
However, Derbyshire offers interesting data in its article, such as that the average European intake is below the recommendations of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), which has established a minimum intake of 400 mg per day for all adults since 2016, 480 mg for pregnant women and 520 mg for nursing mothers.
In Spain there is a recommendation since 1998. The Spanish Federation of Nutrition, Food and Dietetics Societies advises a minimum choline intake of 375 to 600 mg daily depending on gender and age.
The Choline deficiency can cause a variety of disorders: premature delivery, impaired growth in fetuses and children, hypertension, infertility, diseases in the bones and muscles, liver fatty and neurodegenerative diseases in elderly people. It is also suspected of promoting liver, prostate and colon cancer.
WHAT IS THE HILL?
Choline is considered a pseudo vitamin, “false vitamin” or vitamin that, however, is generally included in the group of B vitamins. It participates in multiple metabolic processes, including the transport and assimilation of fats or the production of neurotransmitters.
It is synthesized in the small intestine with the participation of vitamin B12, folic acid and the amino acid methionine (consequently the deficiency of one of these nutrients can produce a choline deficiency). But the body is only capable of producing a small part of what it needs, so it also needs to be obtained from food.
Some countries do not contain an essential nutrient and have not established a minimum recommended intake. This is the case in the United Kingdom, so Derbyshire calls on the health authorities of his country to establish this minimum intake, which would help the population to become aware of its importance. Derbyshire even proposes that protocol supplementation be considered during pregnancy.
WHO ARE REALLY AT RISK?
Choline is not a nutrient on the hardest to get list. Calcium, vitamin C, iron or omega-3s are on everyone”s lips, but choline is rarely mentioned in consultations or in the media, despite the serious consequences of deficiency.
Derbyshire mentions vegans as a risk group, but in reality they are not more so than anyone, because no one is free from error when making their diet. In fact, the people who have traditionally been cited as most vulnerable to impairment are:
- The endurance athletes(runners and swimmers background)
- The people who drink alcohol, which increases the need for Hill
- The women during menopause, because estrogen lowering reduces levels of choline
- Pregnant women, because the fetus needs a large amount for the development of the neural tube
HOW TO ENSURE THE MINIMUM INTAKE OF CHOLINE
The deficiency can be avoided with a good selection of foods. In general, a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet, including B12 supplementation, can provide all essential nutrients, including choline, in sufficient amounts.
To check if you get all the choline you need in an ova-lacto-vegetarian or vegan diet, look at the following list for the foods you eat throughout the day and add the doses provided by each one. Ideally, you should reach 400 mg.
- 1 egg: 113 mg
- A serving of shiitake (100 g dried): 202 mg
- A serving of firm grilled tofu (100 g dried): 106 mg
- A 180 g serving of cooked lentils or chickpeas: 70 mg
- A glass of soy milk: 60 mg
- A serving of broccoli (150 g): 38 mg
- A serving of quinoa (50 g dry): 35 mg
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread: 30 mg
- 25 g of flax seeds or pistachios: 19 mg.
- A cow”s milk yogurt (125 g): 19 mg
- A banana: 12 mg
- An apple: 8 mg
- 30 g of almonds: 7 mg
Pregnant, breastfeeding or menopausal women can add a tablespoon of soy lecithin as supplementation (contains 248 mg of choline).
HOW TO TAKE CHOLINE TO PROTECT YOUR MEMORY AND HEART
The hill or Vitamin B7 is a substance that the body needs to build and maintain cell membranes and acts with inositol (a derivative of glucose) to metabolize fats and cholesterol.
It is found mainly in foods such as lecithin, egg yolk, brewer”s yeast, nuts, and legumes.
The body also uses choline to synthesize acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that the brain needs to transmit impulses along nerve pathways and for muscles to contract properly, which affects the proper functioning of the heart.
In addition, choline plays an important role in memory capacity, as well as in other mental functions, preventing its deterioration.
Choline has been shown to be more effective in preventing rather than curing heart disease, liver disease, and Alzheimer”s disease.
While you are healthy, taking two tablespoons of lecithin a day provides enough choline to prevent these pathologies; its lack, on the other hand, can favor the appearance of atherosclerosis, fatty liver and early loss of mental faculties.
The choline supplements are marketed as pills or capsules. The phosphatidylcholine provided by lecithin contains about 15% choline. If choline is used alone, an amount of 750 to 1,050 mg can be recommended, divided into three doses throughout the day.
The supplementation is useful in pregnancy and lactation, when made efforts prolonged physical or whenever any of the diagnosed health problems following:
- Cholesterolemia and increased triglycerides.
- Hepatobiliary diseases such as hepatitis, fatty liver, cirrhosis or lithiasis.
- Chronic alcoholism
- Neurological diseases such as senile dementia, schizophrenia or Alzheimer”s.
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