What is Choline and Why Do I Need It?

Here’s the technical stuff about choline. Basically, choline is a water-soluble essential nutrient frequently grouped with the B-vitamins, though it is not a true B-vitamin. Choline is necessary for cell membrane synthesis and plays a vital part in neural functions, such as memory and muscle control. Choline supports proper liver function, supports the nervous system, helps metabolism, and even has anti-inflammatory properties and reduces cancer risk.

Choline is synthesized in the body in small quantities, but that’s assuming that the person is eating properly. A healthy diet and/or supplementation is needed to provide the nutrients necessary for the body to work properly and synthesize enough choline. With the modern diet being what it is – consisting of a lot of processed foods, sugars, soy, and chemical additive – it’s likely that about 90% of the American population is deficient in choline.

But how would someone be diagnosed with choline deficiency? There are some typical signs that could indicate a lack of choline – which would result from improper eating habits. Some symptoms of choline deficiency are as follows:

  • Neurological disorders (various kinds)
  • Memory Problems
  • Liver Disease
  • Fatty Liver
  • Atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries)
  • Kidney Necrosis

Once again, Choline deficiency can happen as a result of putting the wrong things – or not enough of the right things – into the body. And as you can see from the list of choline-deficiency symptoms, it can be very serious. It also brings an increased risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. For pregnant women, there is an increased risk of their child being born with neural tube defects and memory problems.

How Do I Get Enough Choline?

There are basically two ways to get any nutrient into your body. The natural way to get something is when your body synthesizes the substance from the foods you eat. (We all have heard that spinach will give your body iron, for instance.) The other way to get things you need is by supplementation. If you’ve ever taken vitamin C or Zinc when you had a cold, you practiced supplementation. Both methods of gaining nutrients are valid, and both have advantages.

So, which foods will give you more choline? Food sources of choline include soy lecithin, raw beef liver, sunflower lecithin, cruciferous vegetables, Brewer’s yeast, eggs, cod fish, spinach, milk, yogurt, and legumes. If you research the ingredients or extraction methods for some choline supplements (the ones that provide the documentation), you will also see sunflowers, soy beans, or beef livers. It’s of course preferable to just eat the foods to give you the choline, but you have to eat a lot to gain any noticeable effects. That’s the “disadvantage” of getting nutrients via the natural way: it’s more of a long-term, slow increase method.

The supplementation method is what you’re here for. (Obviously, at NootropicsOutlet.com we believe that supplementation is OK.) While taking supplements isn’t “natural”, it has some definite advantages over just eating the right foods in order to gain what you need. One benefit of taking a supplement is that you can get a whole lot more of whatever it is you’re trying to get – in a lot less space. So if you want to get a large amount of choline – quickly – you just take a pill or a few milligrams of powder. (It would be pretty much impossible to get as much of any of the nootropic substances we’re interested in without supplementation.) Additionally, we can know the amount and control the dosage of what we’re trying to increase in our body. Lastly, we can space out dosages for an even regimen. You can’t do any of those things (as easily) by relying on diet to provide nutrients. Especially when it comes to choline.

What About Choline as a Nootropic?

Choline is often taken for its nootropic effect. Choline is the building block needed to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which affects various cognition systems within the brain, such as memory, intelligence, and mood. If you’ve researched nootropics for very long, chances are you’ve seen the word “choline” pop up fairly often. It’s fairly central to many nootropic stacks, for good reason.

It’s true that by itself choline enhances brain function. But it is also a popular stacking, or pairing, supplement. It’s often stacked with other nootropics for enhanced or multiplied cognitive benefits. For enhanced cognitive function, higher acetylcholine conversion is desired. When you combine choline with racetams (acetylcholine receptor stimulator) it yields the best cognitive results. Either by itself, or stacked for ultimate brain-boosting power, choline is rightly called an essential nutrient.

What About Soy-Free Choline Sources?

But enough about the background of choline. If you’re ready to start taking choline, you may have noticed that some choline comes from soy or has soy in the ingredients. For people who are trying to avoid or eliminate soy from their diets – but want to try nootropics – this can be a problem if they’re not aware of the options available. (One reader emailed me for advice about soy-free nootropics, and I know he’s not the only one who’s having trouble finding them.)

There are several reasons why a soy-free choline source may be the best option for you. As mentioned, some people avoid soy altogether, so soy-free choline is a must. Others merely want to cut down on their exposure to soy, and since soy is in so many other food products, they prefer soy-free supplements. Others may just prefer the source behind the soy-free choline supplements, so that a soy-free choline supplement naturally becomes the best choice by default. Whatever the reason, there are a sufficient amount of soy-free choline supplements to choose from.

(Keep in mind that different kinds of choline, from different sources, will have different effects. You may have to try different things before you find what works best for your body and what syngergizes best with the other ingredients in your particular stack.)

With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s a list of some of the most popular soy-free choline options to help you decide which choline supplement works best for you.

  1. Lecithin – The “mildest” of the choline supplements. Lecithin is a group of substances that occur in both animals and plants. Lecithins include the following:
  2. Choline Salts (Choline Bitartrate) – This is a very common choline source due to it’s cost (it’s usually the cheapest choline) and effectiveness. There are different choline salts, but choline bitartrate is the most common. It’s more pure than phosphatidylcholine. Choline Bitartrate is probably what you’re most used to seeing stacked with racetams.
  3. Acetylcholine Intermediates – These types of choline can be taken alone for cognitive enhancement but can also be paired with racetams. Better acetylcholine conversion than choline salts (stronger), but also pricier. Specific acetylcholine intermediates include the following:
    • Alpha GPC – My favorite form of choline due to its efficiency and effectiveness when compared to the other choline types. This also seems to be the hardest to find soy-free. (And this brand seems to be the only soy-free Alpha GPC we could find.)
    • CDP Choline – Also referred to as Citicoline.

Whichever type of choline source you choose, building a soy-free nootropic stack will probably need some type of choline – especially if you include a racetam. Searching for soy-free nootropics can seem like a daunting task. If you pick one of the cholines we recommend above, you can cross soy-free choline off the list of things to search for. In further articles we will give you more soy-free options (for other types of nootropics). Be sure to contact us if you have any questions, and remember to sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss our upcoming articles!

Soy-Free Choline We Recommend