The nutrient helps regulate memory and nervous system functioning, and its richest sources include chicken liver, eggs, grass-fed steak and milk—which are off-limits for vegans or vegetarians. The non-meat sources of choline include Brussels sprouts and wheat germ.
Taking a dietary supplement every day offers the same protection, say researchers at Arizona State University. In experiments with mice, they discovered that those given a choline supplement every day had better spatial memory.
Their findings echo those of Chinese researchers who found the supplement protected against symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Choline reduces the activation of microglia, cells that 'mop up' debris in the brain. While this helps the brain to function healthily, overactivation can cause brain inflammation and damage neural pathways, both common symptoms of Alzheimer's. It also blocks the production of amyloid-beta plaques, which are seen in the brain of Alzheimer's patients.
But supplementing with choline at the current recommended levels may not be enough. The recommended daily intake (RDI) for men is 550mg a day, and 425mg for women, but the Arizona researchers estimate this can be increased four-fold without causing any side effects, and at these higher levels, choline would have a much more protective effect.