The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort.
Coreyann Poly, Joseph M Massaro, Sudha Seshadri, Philip A Wolf, Eunyoung Cho, Elizabeth Krall, Paul F Jacques, and Rhoda Au
The answer is choline, which is one of the essential nutrients, produced in small quantities by a human body, but required in much larger quantities for normal functioning. Meaning, we have to eat choline, otherwise we will experience unfortunate consequences with low choline levels associated with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease.
Choline is a precursor to a number of molecules including phospholipids abundandant in cell membranes called phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, and acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator. Acetylcholine is involved in a number of processes like control of alertness, sustaining attention and in learning and memory.
Despite choline being present in foods like eggs, beef, liver, salmon, cauliflower, and breast milk many people don’t get enough of this essential nutrient (so you might want to consider stocking up on eggs to get a boost).
Why should you care? Because low levels of choline are associated with loss of cholinergic neurons, leading to impaired cognitive function and potential implications like memory loss or even Alzheimer’s Disease.
In a study by Poly et al titled “The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort” (link) higher consistent choline intake was related to better cognitive performance measured as superior verbal and visual memory.
Lower choline levels were associated with significantly poorer cognitive performance, white matter hyperintensities (these are lesions produced by demyelination and axonal loss) and brain atrophy. In other words – your brain shrinks without eating enough choline. Changes in white matter are present in up to 70% of Alzheimer’s sufferers, so the link is pretty strong.
What is your choice then: eating eggs or shrinking brain?
Dr Bart Alright