Concentrations of choline-containing compounds and betaine in common foods

J Nutr. 2003 May;133(5):1302-7. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.5.1302.


Choline is important for normal membrane function, acetylcholine synthesis and methyl group metabolism; the choline requirement for humans is 550 mg/d for men (Adequate Intake). Betaine, a choline derivative, is important because of its role in the donation of methyl groups to homocysteine to form methionine. In tissues and foods, there are multiple choline compounds that contribute to total choline concentration (choline, glycerophosphocholine, phosphocholine, phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin). In this study, we collected representative food samples and analyzed the choline concentration of 145 common foods using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Foods with the highest total choline concentration (mg/100 g) were: beef liver (418), chicken liver (290), eggs (251), wheat germ (152), bacon (125), dried soybeans (116) and pork (103). The foods with the highest betaine concentration (mg/100 g) were: wheat bran (1339), wheat germ (1241), spinach (645), pretzels (237), shrimp (218) and wheat bread (201). A number of epidemiologic studies have examined the relationship between dietary folic acid and cancer or heart disease. It may be helpful to also consider choline intake as a confounding factor because folate and choline methyl donation can be interchangeable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Betaine / analysis*
  • Beverages / analysis
  • Carbohydrates / analysis
  • Choline / analysis*
  • Dairy Products / analysis
  • Edible Grain / chemistry
  • Eggs / analysis
  • Energy Intake
  • Fabaceae / chemistry
  • Food Analysis*
  • Food Handling
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat / analysis
  • Vegetables / chemistry


  • Carbohydrates
  • Betaine
  • Choline