To my friends who love to drink alcohol be it San Miguel beer or red wine, do eat protein rich foods like soft boiled eggs when drinking.
To my BFF with pancreas health issues, eat soft boiled eggs.
Acetylcholine/Choline Deficiency in Chronic Illness – The Hunt for the Missing Egg.
Those who lack choline are prone to mental illness, heart disease, fatty liver and/or hemorrhagic kidney necrosis and chronic illness as choline is oxidized to betaine which acts as an important methyl donor and osmolyte. With fatty liver, a person can be prone to diabetes and other chronic illness. Eggs are rich in choline. Choline is also found in a wide range of plant foods in small amounts. Eating a well-balanced vegan diet with plenty of whole foods should ensure you are getting enough choline. Soymilk, tofu, quinoa, and broccoli are particularly rich sources.
We hear a lot about vitamins and minerals such as B12, folate, magnesium, vitamin C, and so on, but there seems very little talk these days on the importance of dietary lecithin and choline. Are you consuming an adequate amount of acetylcholine, or other phospholipids? The odds are that you are not.
A little bit about choline
The human body produces choline by methylation of phosphatidylethanolamine (from dietary sources such as lecithin and others) to form phosphatidylcholine in the liver by the PEMT enzyme. Phosphatidylcholine may also be consumed in the diet or by supplementation. Choline is oxidized to betaine which acts as an important methyl donor and osmolyte.
For those wanting to see how this relates to the methylation cycle, below is a nice graphic (courtesy of Wikipedia).
It is well known that magnesium deficiency is widespread (57% of the population does not meet the U.S. RDA according to the USDA), but the numbers for choline deficiency are even more shocking.
According the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2003-2004, only about 10% of the population have an adequate intake of choline. This means about 90% of the population consumes a diet deficient in choline. Furthermore, those without an adequate intake of choline may not have symptoms.
Along with folate and B12 deficiency, inadequate consumption of choline can lead to high homocysteine and all the risks associated with hyperhomocysteinaemia, such as cardiovascular disease, neuropsychiatric illness (Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia) and osteoporosis. Inadequate choline intake can also lead to fatty liver or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
The most common symptoms of choline deficiency are fatty liver and/or hemorrhagic kidney necrosis. Consuming choline rich foods usually relieve these deficiency symptoms. Diagnosing fatty liver isn’t as simple as running ALT and AST since nearly 80% of people with fatty liver have normal levels of these enzymes according to a population study published in the journal Hepatology. In fact, in an experiment, 10 women were fed a diet low in choline. Nine developed fatty liver and only one had elevated liver enzymes.
Estrogen and Choline Deficiency
Given the connection between low lipids and choline deficiency, it would be tempting to think that as long as someone has enough cholesterol and TG that they will be protected from choline deficiency. Unfortunately this is not the case. Having adequate lipids does indeed help support healthy choline levels, but it does not guarantee a person will avoid choline deficiency. The truth is that choline deficiency can come from more than one source. Both sex hormone levels and genetic SNPs may lead to a choline deficiency by influencing the PEMT enzyme – the enzyme responsible for synthesis of choline inside the body. Recent research now confirms how hormones and genetic polymorphisms play a major role in choline deficiency.
The body can make choline only one way; that is by methylating a molecule of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) into a molecule of phosphatidylcholine (PC). The body’s only method for accomplishing this is via the enzyme PEMT (phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase) which is found in the liver, brain, muscle, fat and other tissues.1,2 As with other well-known methylation enzymes like MTHFR and COMT, the PEMT enzyme can have genetic SNPs that slow it down. When this enzyme slows down the body cannot make choline in high amounts and choline deficiency is more likely. But there is more to the story of PEMT than just polymorphisms. In addition to being slowed by SNPs, PEMT is also dependent upon the hormone estrogen for activation. 1, 3 What this means is that the PEMT enzyme, the body’s only method of synthesizing choline, has not one but two Achilles heals. The PEMT pathway and how it relates to phosphatidylcholine production is shown in Figure 1.3 below.
Figure 1.3 – PEMT is shown as the rate-limiting reaction in the production of phosphatidylcholine inside the human body. Due to genetic and hormonal variances, most people have a PEMT enzyme working too slow and are susceptible to choline deficiency when there is not enough choline in the diet. ACoA – Acetyl-CoA; TG – Triglycerides; PE – phosphatidylethanolamine; PC – phosphatidylecholine; PEMT – phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase.
As mentioned above, the sex hormone estrogen is intimately linked with the production of choline. Women have a biological advantage here as the premenopausal female body has much higher levels of estrogen than does the male body. When a woman becomes pregnant this advantage is taken to an extreme, as pregnancy increases estrogen levels over 30 times normal.4 A successful pregnancy requires high amounts of nutrients delivered to the growing baby, esp. choline. Since the mother’s body is building a human being from scratch, there is an added burden on her biology to provide enough nutrition to her growing baby. Viewed from this perspective, the high estrogen levels during pregnancy can be seen to act like a biochemical insurance policy. Since the PEMT enzyme requires estrogen to function, pregnancy allows a woman to make extra choline for her developing child. Furthermore, the nervous system is the first system to form in utero and is a tissue that requires high levels of choline for proper development.5, 6 Choline plays such an important role in cell membranes, myelin sheaths, and nervous system tissue that the high estrogen levels during pregnancy help make sure the growing brain and nervous system is nourished. It is a genius system that assures the health and survival of the child.
Even though Nature has conferred an advantage to females by providing them with higher estrogen levels, esp. during pregnancy, this alone cannot protect against a lack of choline in the diet. All the estrogen in the world will not save a woman from choline deficiency if the gene responsible for producing choline is slowed down by a polymorphism. Genetic research has shown that the gene responsible for synthesizing choline, the PEMT gene, is susceptible to common polymorphisms which alter its function by slowing it down. In a recent study looking at a population in North Carolina, men and women of various ages were placed on a choline-deficient diet. They were followed closely for up to 42 days on a low choline diet consisting of less than 50mg choline per day. Throughout the study, the participants’ liver function was continuously assessed for any sign of fatty liver and damage. After eating a choline deficient diet for just six weeks, 63% of participants developed liver dysfunction and choline blood levels dropped 30% in every single participant, including premenopausal females.7 During this six week trial of low dietary choline the odds of developing liver dysfunction were 77% for men, 80% for postmenopausal women and just 44% for premenopausal women.7 Based on what has been discussed so far about estrogen and choline, it makes sense that men and postmenopausal women would be more susceptible to developing fatty liver since they don’t have high estrogen levels. And based on the fact that estrogen levels drive choline production, premenopausal women should have been protected from fatty liver since they make higher amounts of choline – but that was not the case.
With dietary choline restricted to just 50 mg/day, approximately half of the premenopausal group also suffered liver dysfunction, suggesting that a choline deficient diet can even harm women with higher estrogen levels. In addition, blood tests revealed that premenopausal female experienced a 30% loss of choline on a low choline diet right along with everyone else. Despite the fact that higher estrogen levels allow fertile women to make more choline, many were not able to make enough to avoid problems. A PEMT gene polymorphism is the only mechanism that can explain how women with high estrogen levels are still susceptible to choline deficiency when placed on a low choline diet.
Just like many individuals in the population, some of the premenopausal women inherited one or two copies of the PEMT gene which slows down the production of choline. This study showed that fatty liver occurred in 80% of the premenopausal women with two copies of PEMT and in 43% with only one copy of PEMT.8 What this means is that a premenopausal woman with two copies of the slowed PEMT gene has exactly the same risk of fatty liver as a postmenopausal woman. It is as if inheriting two copies of the PEMT gene effectively shuts off all estrogen-related choline production in the body. If a woman only has a single copy of the slowed PEMT gene, she will still have a roughly 50% chance of liver dysfunction on a low choline diet. Thus a single copy of the gene is only slightly better than two copies, as at least some estrogen-related choline production is preserved.
If having a PEMT gene can put one at risk for choline-related diseases like fatty liver, then it is important to know how common these genes are in population. We know that 74% of all women in the study had a SNP in the PEMT that made their PEMT enzyme unresponsive to estrogen.9 This means that only 26% of women can make enough choline on a low choline diet; and that ability depends on whether the woman is still fertile or has entered menopause. In this way genetics can take away the biological advantage that high estrogen levels usually offer to premenopausal females. Women with these PEMT genes will be at risk for choline deficiency and liver damage just like all men and post-menopausal women – two groups who don’t have enough estrogen to make choline regardless of their genes. Due to all the interference from the PEMT gene, dietary choline levels must be optimized for the vast majority of our population.
Summary of PEMT and Choline Deficiency:
- In humans, choline is only made by the PEMT enzyme
- Estrogen is required for the PEMT enzyme to activate and function normally
- Men and postmenopausal women have an elevated risk of choline deficiency due to low estrogen levels.
- The PEMT enzyme is commonly slowed down by polymorphisms, making it unresponsive to estrogen levels
- 74% of women have at least one copy of a slowed PEMT
- Homozygous carriers of PEMT have much higher risk of choline deficiency
- Men, postmenopausal women, and premenopausal women with PEMT SNPs need to increase choline intake in the diet to offset elevated risk of liver dysfunction
The take away here is that studies have recently shown that because of common genetic polymorphisms, choline deficiency is a widespread problem. Normally the hormone estrogen allows the body to make choline from scratch. However, genetic variation in the PEMT enzyme, estrogen levels and gender differences prevent most people from making adequate choline. Realistically then the only group in our population who is protected from choline deficiency are premenopausal females without a single copy of the slowed PEMT gene. Every single male, every single postmenopausal woman, and 74% of premenopausal woman all require daily intake of approx. 500 mg of choline to prevent fatty liver, organ damage, and the associated health problems.7 If the body is already depleted, then levels that simply prevent deficiency won’t be enough to replete the body. In these cases, higher daily doses of at least 1 gram or more are needed to replenish the tissues. Choline it seems must be absorbed from the diet in just about everyone except for the few young women who have a normal PEMT gene and can synthesize choline regardless of dietary intake.
BEST TO WORST WAYS HOW TO COOK EGGS FOR MAXIMUM NUTRITION: 1. SOFT BOILED. We’ll start out with the best way how to cook eggs for nutrition: soft boiled. This is when you boil anegg, but it is still a little runny and the yolk is definitely not hard. It might take a little more work than other methods, but soft boiled …
Oct 9, 2005 – I know that uncooked egg yolks are a source of choline (180-215mg?) and phosphatidylcholine. As I understand it, cooking the yolk kind of ‘denatures’ the choline and makes it unavailable. … Whole raw eggs are my source of choline and protien (and other stuff too).
There is a lot of speculation out there as to whether cooking an egg decreases the amounts of choline it contains. Most of what I see online says that it does. However, I have yet to find any scientific evidence that is the case. In fact, the USDA has a choline fact sheet, which has cooked eggs having slightly …
Oct 14, 2013 – A soft boiled egg contains useable lysine. Boil the egg for another minute to hard state, the lysine is not useable. Lysine is needed for the body to make use of the next 5 most important essential aminoes so that other aminoes can be made by the body. Lysine is denatured at about 110 degrees. As the heat …
Mar 5, 2015 – If you choose not to eat your eggs raw, poached or soft–boiled would be the next best option. This leaves the yolk still runny and the … Eggs also contain choline, selenium, biotin, B vitamins, phosphorus, and more, making them are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. And, contrary to popular belief, …
The ideal sources of choline are animal foods like egg yolks and liver, which contain the most concentrated amounts of this nutrient and can be easily incorporated into the diet to meet … Veggies from this group, including cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and broccoli, boast around 65 mg of cholineper cup cooked.
Mar 28, 2013 – Hard-boiled eggs are commonly used for dying Easter eggs, but a soft–boiled egg can make a yummy breakfast or snack. How does … One large egg has about 75 calories, many essential nutrients, lots of high-quality protein, various vitamins, multiple minerals, choline, folate and riboflavin. Eggs can help …
Jun 7, 2014 – Eggs are a phenomenal source of protein, fat, and other nutrients, including choline and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. … While less “well done” eggs are still preferable (such as poached, soft-boiled, or over easy with very runny yolks), a hard-boiled egg makes a fine snack or source of protein for …
Feb 21, 2015 – This nutrient loss occurs regardless of whether the egg is removed from the shell (for example, during poaching) or left inside the shell during cooking (for example, during soft or hard boiling). If you compare the nutrient value of one large raw egg to one large hard-boiled egg in the latest version of the U.S. …
Eat Your Eggs! Choline and the Link With Fatty Liver. eggs “Stay away from eggs if you want to be healthy. They have all that fat and cholesterol!” If you’re like most people, you began hearing that information in the 70s, 80s or 90s (depending upon your age). …. I eate boiled eggs but not the yolk because I don’t like them.