The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 18 No. 7 • November 2015


New Study Reports Genetic Differences Between Ethnic and Racial Groups in Amount of Choline Required

The Institute of Medicine of the National Institute of Health defines the “adequate intake” (AI) for choline as 550 mg/day for men and 425 mg/day for women. Many Americans are said not to ingest the AI for choline, which can result in fatty liver, liver damage, and muscle damage. In this new paper (da Costa, 2104), scientists report that genetic differences (identified as single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs) between ethnic and racial groups indicate that the amount of choline required will differ between these groups. Seventy-nine humans were fed a low choline diet and 200 SNPs in 10 genes related to choline metabolism examined to determine associations with organ dysfunction. Some people on low choline diets presented with muscle damage, others with liver damage.

As the researchers note, the setting of dietary recommendations has not (or has rarely) considered genetic diversity in the need for daily intake of nutrients. They suggest that the simplest and safest way to deal with this is to set dietary recommendations at a level high enough to meet the needs of those with the greatest requirements. That may indeed be the simplest and safest way, but what these researchers probably have not considered is that dietary programs (school lunches, food stamps, etc.) are based upon these dietary recommendations and setting the level high enough to meet the needs of those with the greatest requirements could be quite a bit more expensive for these government programs than setting it at a level that would meet the requirements of the average American. Moreover, when you think of the case of choline, the foods that can supply it (eggs, dairy, and fish, for example) tend to be on the expensive side.

Add to the genetic variation the decreasing ability of older persons to transport choline into the brain (Cohen, 1995) and it appears likely that a significant fraction of the populace may require a higher intake of choline than that recommended by the Institute of Medicine of the National Institute of Health.

It as also been reported that choline acetyltransferase, the enzyme needed to convert choline to acetylcholine, is inhibited by exposure to excitatory amino acids (Louzada, 2004). Taurine and the antiinflamatory compounds naturally formed from it, taurine bromamine and taurine chloramine, are able to provide protection against these inflammatory excitatory amino acids and, hence, are likely to help prevent the suppression of choline acetyltransferase formation resulting from exposure to excitatory amino acids.

How Something That Looks More Complicated Can Actually Be a Simplification

As you connect more and more of the dots in a regulatory pathway, you actually “simplify” the overall understanding of how the pathway works. The increased connections between the dots improve the explanatory power of the overall picture because you reduce the number of independent elements in the analysis. It is like what happens when you increase the number of data points in a statistical analysis to where the statistical “power” of the analysis allows it to explain more than it otherwise could.


  • Cohen, Renshaw, Stoll, et al. Decreased brain choline uptake in older adults. An in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study.” JAMA. 274(11):902-7 (1995).
  • da Costa, Corbin, Niculescu, et al. Identification of new genetic polymorphisms that alter the dietary requirement for choline and vary in their distribution across ethnic and racial groups. FASEB J. 28:2970-8 (2014).
  • Louzada et al. Taurine prevents the neurotoxicity of beta-amyloid and glutamate receptor agonists; activation of GABA receptors and possible implications for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. FASEB J. 18:511-8 (2004).
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