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Choline (Vitamin B4) fact sheet

Choline (vitamin B4) - profile, daily requirement & more

Want to find out more about choline? Then you will find the most important information about the nutrient, which was previously also called vitamin B4, here.

We start with a brief profile, followed by the intake, the reference values for the intake, the physiological function, the risk of an over- or undersupply, through to the choline-containing foods and food supplements. Finally, I will also explain what vegans should bear in mind with regard to choline.

Here is in advance a short Table of contents for you:

  1. Profile
  2. Recording
  3. Daily requirement
  4. Meaning
  5. Overdose
  6. Mangel
  7. Foods
  8. Vegan
  9. Food supplement
  10. Frequently asked questions

Notice: This article is not intended to replace medical advice, but merely to provide general information about choline. Please consult your doctor if you feel unwell or want to prevent health problems with medical care.


Assignment: vitamin-like substance, monohydric alcohol
Synonyms: Vitamin B4 (obsolete), choline chloride
Important for: Structure of the cell membrane, removal of fat and cholesterol from the liver, influence on neurotransmitters1
Daily requirement: 400-550 mg/day from the age of 19.2,3,4
Overdose: possible from 3,500 mg/day2
Deficiency symptoms: including muscle and liver disorders, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease1,2
Food: Peanut butter, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, walnuts
Food supplement: rather rarely, if as vitamin B complex

What is choline?

Choline is strictly speaking a monohydric alcoholwhich is absorbed through the diet, but cannot be compared with conventional alcohol. It is a vitamin-like nutrient which semi-essential is. This means that the body can produce the substance itself if required, as long as sufficient Folic acid and methionine is available.5

How much choline do you need?

Lentils contain large amounts of vitamin B4 (choline)

The German Nutrition Society has not yet (as of September 2021) published any reference values for the daily intake of choline. Basically, the choline requirement depends on how much methionine, folic acid and betaine is supplied to the body - but the ability to produce the nutrient endogenously is also crucial.2

From the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) a recommendation of 400 mg per day is based on.3 The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends a slightly higher daily intake of 425 mg choline for women and 550 mg for men.3

The U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) published reference values for choline intake in 1998 and differentiated them according to age and gender4:

1 to under 4 years200200
4 to under 9 years250250
9 to under 14 years375375
14 to under 19 years550400
19 years and older550425
IOM reference values for the daily requirement of choline in mg4

Increasing the intake during the Pregnancy and lactation is recommended for women.2,3,4

What is choline needed for?

Choline is important for Structure of the cell membraneas it is required for the production of phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyeline. These two substances make a significant contribution to the structure of the cell membrane.1,2

The vitamin-like substance is also a component of a substance called VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoproteins), which removes fat and cholesterol from the liver. The nutrient is therefore important for Liver Health.1

Choline is also a building material for acetylcholine, an important Neurotransmitterwhich transmits messages from the nerve fibers to the muscle fibers. Other functions include gene expression, cell membrane signaling, lipid transport, various metabolic processes and early brain development.2

The Choline functions short and to the point:

  • Influence on the structure of the cell membrane
  • Building material for neurotransmitters
  • Influence on liver health
  • Gene Expression
  • Cell membrane signal transduction
  • Lipid transport
  • Metabolic processes, such as fat metabolism
  • Early brain development

Is too much choline dangerous?

In principle, the toxicity of choline is rather To be classified as low. However, excessive intake can lead to a fishy body odor, vomiting, sweating, low blood pressure and liver damage. That is why the Office of Dietary Supplements defined an intake limit of 3,500 mg of choline per day.2 However, EFSA has not set a maximum intake limit.6

Is it possible to take in too little choline?

As already mentioned, the body can produce choline itself if sufficient amounts of methionine and folic acid are available. In most cases, however, the body's own production can not enough of the nutrient are produced. Consequently, deficiency symptoms can also occur if little choline is consumed. This is why it is also being discussed whether the vitamin-like substance should be classified as essential again.

Potential Deficiency symptoms are non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and damage to the muscles and liver.1,2

Risk groups for a deficiency: Pregnant women, people with various genetic disorders, patients receiving parenteral nutrition.2 People with chronic intestinal diseases and older people are also at risk, as their nutrient absorption is often inhibited.

What foods contain choline?

Choline is contained in peanut butter, for example

As with many nutrients, you can also find sufficient amounts of choline in Whole grain products, pulses, nuts and seeds. As I recommend a plant-based diet for ethical, ecological and health reasons, the following list contains almost exclusively plant-based foods. However, in order to be as comprehensive as possible, there is also an animal source.

Especially Good sources of choline are:

  • Liver (300-400 mg per 100 gram)
  • Peanut butter (63 mg per 100 gram)
  • Whole wheat (60 mg per 100 gram)
  • Sunflower seeds (55 mg per 100 gram)
  • Almonds, peanuts (52 mg per 100 gram)
  • Hazelnuts (45 mg per 100 gram)
  • Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts (40 mg per 100 gram)
  • Lenses (32 mg per 100 gram)

Supplement: Other good sources are macadamias, Brazil nuts, walnuts, tofu, peas and artichokes.

What should vegans pay attention to?

In principle, the DGE choline not as a potentially critical nutrient with a vegan diet classified.7 Due to the large number of plant sources, a choline deficiency is very unlikely in a balanced, vegan diet.

Another factor is probably the higher Betaine supply with a plant-based diet. The ammonium compound can either be obtained from food or produced by the body from ingested choline. As betaine is mainly found in plant-based foods such as cereal products, fruit and vegetables, vegans are generally better supplied with the nutrient. This reduces the proportion of choline needed to produce betaine and therefore the choline requirement of vegans could possibly be lower than that of people on a mixed diet.1

Tip: So if you want to eat a purely plant-based diet, you are well advised to include enough whole grain products, pulses, nuts and seeds in your diet. Then nothing will go wrong with your choline supply.

Is supplementation necessary or sensible?

Supplementation of choline is not necessary if you eat a balanced diet. If you feel that you are not getting enough choline or if you suffer from a fatty liver, a dietary supplement may be useful.

A good vitamin B complex that also contains choline is a good way to provide you with enough of the important B vitamins and sufficient choline. A recommended one, vegan vitamin B complex in tablet form you get here*.

Choline FAQ: The most frequently asked questions

What is choline good for?

Choline is used to build the cell membrane, as a building block for neurotransmitters, influences liver health and is also an important component in various metabolic processes.

What foods contain choline?

Good plant sources are nuts and seeds, such as sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and walnuts. Pulses such as lentils and peas, as well as tofu, also contain large amounts of choline.

Is choline harmful?

Choline has a low toxicity, but should not be consumed in excess. The maximum intake is therefore 3.5 g per day.

Can you lose weight with choline?

Choline influences fat metabolism and thus contributes to the maintenance of a healthy fat metabolism. Choline can therefore help you lose weight if you eat properly and exercise. However, it is not a miracle cure.

How much choline per day?

The recommended daily intake of this semi-essential nutrient is between 400-550 mg for adults.

Promote your health holistically with choline

Although choline is currently classified as semi-essential, it is still important to consume sufficient amounts in your diet. You can ensure a sufficient supply, especially with Nuts and seedsbut also whole grain products and legumes.

So that you don't just promote your health through your diet and an adequate intake of choline, I also recommend the following Measures to improve your health. In the articles on cold shower, Barefoot walking and Time in nature you will find a few interesting options.

Do you have questions about vitamin B4 or choline? Then just write me a comment!

All the best,

Julian from CareElite

P.S.: In our Nutrient database you can discover many more articles about nutrients. If you're interested in sustainability, you're guaranteed to find the article Making nutrition sustainable find exciting. Have fun!


1 Zentrum der Gesundheit: Choline in the vegan diet: How to cover your needs, [08.09.2021]

2 National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements: Choline. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, [08.09.2021]

3 European Food Safety Authority: Scientific Opinion on Dietary reference values for choline, [08.09.2021].

4 Institute of Medicine. Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes and its Panel on Folate, Other B Vitamins, and Choline (1998): Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B 6, folates, vitamin B 12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline, [08.09.2021]

5 H. K. Biesalski, P. Grimm (2011): Pocket atlas of nutrition. Georg Thieme Verlag, ISBN 3-13-167605-1.

6 European Food Safety Authority: Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for Vitamins and Minerals, [08.09.2021]

7 German Nutrition Society: Supplement to the position of the German Nutrition Society regarding population groups with special nutritional needs, [08.09.2021].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Julian Hölzer

Julian Hölzer

Hi, my name is Julian and I am a trained vegan nutritionist. In 2016 I started to get involved with veganism and quickly learned how big an impact our diet has on the environment and how diverse plant-based diets can be. That's why I want to inspire you to get involved with veganism too.

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