What is Choline?

What is Choline?

This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!


Choline (Bitartrate)

What it is:

Choline is an essential nutrient found at high levels in eggs and, to a lesser degree, fish, meats, and some whole grains (1). Choline bitartrate is the commercial source of this nutrient and is made from tartaric acid (naturally found in grapes) leftover at the end of the wine fermentation process (2,3).

What it does:

A relative newbie to the supplement scene, choline was classified as an essential nutrient by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine in 1998 (4). Since then, the body of evidence has only grown, demonstrating the role choline plays in human health and development. Fundamentally, choline is essential for the normal function of every cell in your body (5). Some of the more specific functions choline has been associated with include:

  • Supporting brain development. In animal studies, prenatal use lead to lifelong improvement of memory and learning capabilities in offspring (5-8). In a study of pregnant women, those with the lowest levels of choline in their bodies had a four times greater chance of having a baby with neural tube defects (9).
  • Helping support healthy liver function (4,10).
  • Helping support normal metabolism (11).

Why we use it:

Choline clearly plays a critical role in our health, yet an analysis of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed 90% of people are not taking in enough choline through their diets (4). This is concerning for absolutely everyone, but especially so for pregnant woman and small children. While research pertaining to human health benefits is still ongoings, we thought we’d get ahead of the curve and include choline bitartrate in various products in our supplement line such as our Prenatal Multi-Vitamin and Baby & Toddler Multi Powder.

Why we’re featuring it today:

Choline is not a standard nutrient found in all prenatal or children’s multi-vitamins, yet it’s clear most people are not getting enough from their diets and it’s important for optimal health and development. With the growing body of research, some experts are even saying choline may some day soon get as much attention as folic acid does. Currently, only 10% of pregnant women are ingesting the recommended levels (12). We pride ourselves on staying abreast of the latest science and public health recommendations, and including choline bitartrate in our supplements is a reflection of that commitment.

supplement disclaimer


  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. (2008) USDA Database for the Choline Content of Common Foods: Release Two. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/80400525/Data/Choline/Choln02.pdf
  2. Choline L-Bitartrate . Retrieved December 15, 2015, from https://www.ulprospector.com/en/na/food/detail/1670/380657/choline-l-bitartrate
  3. Tartaric Acid. Retrieved December 15, 2015, from https://www.ihs.com/products/tartaric-acid-chemical-economics-handbook.html
  4. Zeisel, S.H., da Costa, K.A. Choline: An Essential Nutrient for Public Health. Nutr Rev. Nov 2009; 67(11):615-623.
  5. Zeisel S.H. Nutritional importance of choline for brain development.J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6 Suppl):621S-626S.
  6. Moon J., Chen M., Gandhy S.U., et al. Perinatal choline supplementation improves cognitive functioning and emotion regulation in the Ts65Dn mouse model of Down syndrome. Behav Neurosci. 2010;124:346–61.
  7. Caudill M.A. Pre- and postnatal health: evidence of increased choline needs, J Am Diet Assoc, 2010;110:1198-1206.
  8. Meck, W.H., Smith, R.A., Williams, C.L. 1988. Pre- and postnatal choline supplementation produces long-term facilitation of spatial memory. Dev. Psychobiol. 21: 339–53.
  9. Zeisel, S. H. (2006). Choline: critical role during fetal development and dietary requirements in adults. Annual review of nutrition, 26, 229.
  10. Buchman, A.L., Ament, M.E., Sohel, M., Dubin, M., Jenden, D.J., Roch, M., Pownall, H., Farley, W., Awal, M., Ahn, C. 2001. Choline deficiency causes reversible hepatic abnormalities in patients receiving parenteral nutrition: proof of a human choline requirement: a placebo-controlled trial. J. Parent. Ent. Nutr. 25(5):260-268.
  11. Choline. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Accessed 3/3/2014.
  12. Research Shows Choline Plays Critical Role in Pregnancy and Women's Health. Retrieved December 15, 2015, from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/research-shows-choline-plays-critical-role-in-pregnancy-and-womens-health-300119541.html

This post was revised as of 1/14/2016.

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.