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Choline Overdose

By Sylvie Tremblay, MSc

Choline makes up an essential part of your diet. The nutrient contributes to the production of acetylcholine, a chemical involved in brain signaling, and it also plays a role in the breakdown of fats in your body and makes up an important component of your cell membranes. You require some choline each day, but consuming large doses of the nutrient is harmful.

Tolerable Upper Limit

The tolerable upper limit for choline represents the amount of the nutrient most people can consume without adverse effects. Exceeding the tolerable upper intake limit may cause side effects and lead to a choline overdose. The Linus Pauling Institute indicates that adults should not consume more than 3.5 g of choline daily. The tolerable upper limits for adolescents and children are slightly lower: 3 and 2 g, respectively. You can help prevent an accidental choline overdose in your children by keeping any supplements out of reach and only giving your children choline supplements if instructed by a doctor.

Symptoms of Choline Overdose

Consuming too much choline can lead to a number of side effects. You may experience dizziness or lightheadedness in some cases, since very high doses of choline can lower your blood pressure. In addition, choline overdose can cause excessive sweating and salivation as well as a fishy body odor caused by byproducts of choline metabolism in your body. Choline magnesium trisalicylate, one type of choline-containing supplement, can also lead to diminished liver functioning, though this effect may occur due to compounds in the supplement other than choline.

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Recommendations

Consuming your recommended intake of choline each day helps provide your body with the nutrients it requires. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that men at or above the age of 19 require 500 mg of choline each day, while women require 425 mg of the nutrient. Your total choline intake can come from dietary sources or from nutritional supplements recommended by your doctor.

Dietary Sources

A number of foods provide choline, allowing you to consume your adequate intake of the nutrient without the risk of overdose from supplements. The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists eggs -- particularly egg yolks -- chicken liver, turkey liver and enriched breakfast cereals as particularly rich sources of choline. In addition, several fruits and vegetables, including figs, avocado, brussels sprouts and corn all contain choline. Following a balanced diet containing a range of healthy foods will likely provide adequate choline without the need for supplements.

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