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The Little-Known Nutrient Found in Eggs
Egg yolks are rich in choline, an essential nutrient needed for normal functioning of all cells, including those involved with metabolism, brain and nerve function, memory, and the transportation of nutrients through the bloodstream.
Choline Aids Brain Development
Reviews of research find that sufficient choline consumption during pregnancy is important to prevent birth defects. It is an essential nutrient for brain function – both for proper brain development in fetuses and newborns, and possibly for memory function throughout life and into advanced age.
Zeisel SH. Choline: Critical role during fetal development and dietary requirements in adults. Annu Rev
Zeisel SH. Nutritional importance of choline for brain development. J Am Col Nutr 2004;23:621S-626S.
Choline May Protect Your Heart
High levels of homocysteine in the blood indicate a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, some cancer, and even death. Choline is involved in the removal of homocysteine from the body by helping to convert it to a needed amino acid called methionine. A recent cohort study found that individuals with the highest choline intakes had the lowest blood levels of homocysteine.
Cho et al. Dietary choline and betaine assessed by food-frequency questionnaire in relation to plasma total homocysteine concentration in the Framingham Offspring Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:905-11.
Deficiencies in Choline May Lead to DNA, Immune System and Organ Damage
In a clinical study, healthy adults who developed a choline deficiency were found to have increased DNA damage (which is related to chronic diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and accelerated aging), increased death of immune cells called lymphocytes, and increased liver and muscle dysfunction. da Costa KA et al. Choline deficiency increases lymphocyte apoptosis and DNA damage in humans.
Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:88-94.
How Much Choline Do I Need?
Current recommendations suggest that adequate choline intake is 550 milligrams per day for men and lactating women, 425 milligrams per day for women, and 450 milligrams per day for pregnant women. Two eggs contain about 250 milligrams of choline, or roughly half the recommended daily supply. You can get about 550 milligrams of choline by eating a two-egg omelet, a serving of lean pork loin or a cup of cooked navy beans.
USDA and DHHS 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Where Do I Get Choline?
Choline-rich foods, such as egg yolks, are an important part of a healthy diet, especially during pregnancy. Eggs are an affordable and readily available source of choline. Foods highest in choline are liver (of various animals, such as beef and chicken), egg yolk, wheat germ, pork loin, bacon and beans.
USDA Database for Choline Content of Common Foods, 2004
Choline is an essential nutrient needed for the normal functioning of all cells. It is especially important for proper liver, brain and nerve function, memory, and transporting nutrients throughout the body. Emerging research is providing more details about the benefits of choline. New studies have found that most Americans probably aren't getting enough of this nutrient.
Are You Getting Enough Choline?
Most people do not get enough choline. Researchers at Iowa State University recently reported that choline intakes for older children, men, women and pregnant women are far below the Adequate Intake levels. Only 10 percent or less of these groups are eating close to the recommended amounts of choline.
We're also still learning more about how much choline individuals need. Recent research supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health found that the current Adequate Intake level for choline may not be sufficient for all adults.
Choline, like folate, plays an important role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease. In fact, research shows that choline deficiency results in increased homocysteine levels. Although an egg contains 212 milligrams of cholesterol, years of research have concluded that healthy adults can enjoy eggs without significantly impacting their cholesterol levels or risk of heart disease.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends increased choline intake for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
The Adequate Intake (AI) levels for choline are:
Eggs are a Good Choice for Moms-to-Be
The best sources of choline are choline-rich foods. Many prenatal vitamins do not currently contain choline. Eggs are an excellent source of choline, as well as one of the most affordable and versatile!
Two eggs provide about 250 milligrams of choline, or roughly half of the recommended daily intake for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Did You Know?
The choline in eggs is found in the yolk. In fact, the yolk contains a number of other nutrients including 40 percent of an egg's protein, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which help promote eye health. Although eggs contain a small amount of these two nutrients, research shows that the lutein and zeaxanthin from eggs may be more bioavailable than from other sources. Eating only egg whites means missing out on some of the most important nutrients eggs have to offer.
Healthy Pregnancies, Healthy Babies Research suggests that choline plays a very important role in an infant's development.
Choline works together with folic acid in many of the pathways that involve nervous system development during pregnancy.
Healthy Pregnancies, Healthy Babies
Research suggests that choline plays a very important role in an infant's development. Choline works together with folic acid in many of the pathways that involve nervous system development during pregnancy
Healthy Eating for a Healthy Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your need for most nutrients and food energy goes up somewhat. Eating a variety of foods from all five food groups is the best way to get what you need. Ask your health care provider or registered dietitian for more information about healthful eating for you and your baby.
More information is also available online at www.nutrition.gov
This Nutrition Fact Sheet has been sponsored by the Egg Nutrition Center. www.pregnancyfoodguide.org