What is Vitamin J?
Vitamin J is more commonly known as choline – an essential substance related to the B group of vitamins. Until recently it was thought we made enough choline to meet our needs but since 1998 this was recognised as incorrect, especially in later life.
What does Vitamin J do?
Choline acts as a building block to make cell membranes and neurotransmitters in the brain to help regulate concentration, alertness, memory and mood. When it comes to depression, people who failed to respond to prescribed drugs have benefited from taking phosphatidylcholine supplements.
Because of its important role in cell health, choline is vital for our internal organs. If choline is in short supply, for example, liver cells are unable to process and export dietary fats, which then build up to produce fatty liver disease – one of the first signs of a choline deficiency.
Choline is also involved in the metabolism of ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol and acts as an emulsifier to break down dietary fats into smaller particles that are more easily absorbed.
Choline is crucial for muscle structure and function and may assist athletic performance.
Where can we get it?
Most dietary choline is derived from the closely related substance, phosphatidylcholine (also known as lecithin). Choline is obtained from many food sources, including egg yolk, liver, meat, fish, wheatgerm, peanuts, Brazil nuts, beans and green leafy vegetables. The lecithin found in supplements is usually extracted from soybeans.
How is Vitamin J depleted?
Choline can be made in the body but some people we also need to obtain dietary choline to prevent deficiency.
There is no EU recommended daily intake for choline but in the United States an adequate intake for adults aged 19 years and over is suggested as 425 mg per day. The tolerable upper limit is given as 3,500 mg per day.
If choline is in short supply, cells cannot function properly and enter a process known as apoptosis or programmed cell death. Conditions that have been linked with choline deficiency include fatty liver degeneration, hardening of the arteries, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and stomach ulcers.
Requirements differ between the sexes and men and postmenopausal women are more likely to develop deficiency effects such as fatty liver than premenopausal women when following a choline-deficient diet. This is thought to be because oestrogen stimulates the production of choline in cells.
How to boost your Vitamin J intake
Eat more choline-rich foods such as fish, eggs and meats.
Choline is included in many vitamin B complex supplements, while phospholipids that contain choline are present in brain health supplements (eg Healthspan’s Brain Synergex ) and liver health supplements (eg Healthspan Milk Thistle Complete.
Lecithin capsules derived from concentrated soy bean extracts are also a rich source of choline
Choline supplements are best taken with meals to boost absorption.
What to avoid
Do not exceed manufacturer’s recommended doses except under professional advice.
Choline and lecithin supplements should not be taken by those with manic depression except under medical supervision in case it worsens the condition.