Optimizing Ingredients

Getting the Most Out of Choline—from Improved Memory and Cognition, to Athletic Performance

Research has shown that choline (also known as vitamin B4) is an essential nutrient for the development of eye, liver and brain function in fetuses and adults, and has also been linked to improved memory and cognition stemming from its production of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.

It’s also a critical nutrient for athletes. During intense training or competition, concentrations of plasma choline can be reduced by as much as 40%, triggering a drop in acetylcholine synthesis and having a negative impact on performance.

Unfortunately, contemporary diets have left as much as 90% of the population deficient and therefore unable to reap the many benefits of choline.

The clear need for choline

According to the Institute of Medicine, the adequate intake recommendation for choline is 550mg for men and 425mg for women, but some individuals require more. For example, 40% of women have a genetic condition that prevents choline synthesis, increasing their need for choline from the diet. In others, the type of bacteria found in their gastrointestinal tract affects their choline requirements.

For these reasons, the FDA recently announced a plan to allow choline to be listed voluntarily on the Nutrient Facts panel on food labels. This will make it easier for consumers to find choline naturally present or fortified in foods.

The challenges of fortifying

Given the uncertainty about the amount of choline being consumed, the industry is turning to the use of dietary supplements to deliver this essential compound. Like choline-fortified prenatal vitamins for pregnant and lactating women to ensure the optimal development of the fetus. Or choline-rich instant shakes and smoothies that support liver function and fat metabolism.

But most choline compounds such as choline bitartrate and choline chloride pose a variety of manufacturing challenges—from moisture pickup in processing that results in “clumping”, to the fishy taste in the finished product—making it more difficult, and more costly, to produce the high-quality supplements consumers need and want.

How microencapsulation can help

The good news is, microencapsulation can help food and beverage manufacturers overcome these challenges and cost-effectively fortify products with choline. For starters, microencapsulation enhances bioavailability by delivering the active compound at a micelle level, allowing for a higher rate of absorption. The net result is a greater biological efficiency due to better uptake—which also means that less of that active ingredient is required.

And because microencapsulation not only coats, but allows for the slow release of choline, this technology obviates the need for expensive flavor compounds or other masking agents and prevents unfavorable interactions among ingredients.

Finally, by protecting nutrients in this manner, microencapsulation enables nutrient potency to be maintained for longer periods of time. It also allows manufacturers to combine choline with the known health benefits of other labile, unstable bioactive ingredients for the first time.

That’s making the most of choline!

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