Choline, often also called vitamin J, is a molecule similar to the B vitamins that intervenes as a coenzyme in numerous metabolic reactions.
Choline is used to control blood cholesterol levels and to protect liver health.
It also seems to be particularly important for the proper functioning of the nervous system, so much so that it is recommended in case of depression, memory loss, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, Hungtington's chorea, Tourette syndrome, cerebellar ataxia, bipolar disorder, some forms of seizures and schizophrenia.
According to British nutritionist Emma Derbyshire, a strictly vegan diet is likely to cause us to take too little choline than we need.
The American Institute of Medicine has recommended a minimum daily intake quantified as 425 mg per day for women and 550 for men, which become 450 and 550 for pregnant or breastfeeding women. In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority published similar daily requirements.
However, surveys in North America, Australia and Europe show that habitual choline intake, on average, is not the recommended one.
"This is worrying - highlights Derbyshire - given that current trends seem to be towards the reduction of meat and plant-based diets". The expert then focuses in particular on the United Kingdom, explaining that "currently choline is excluded from the food composition databases in the United Kingdom, from the main dietary investigations and from the dietary guidelines". It may be time for the UK government's Independent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to reverse this, he suggests, particularly in light of growing evidence of the importance of choline for human health.