Associations between dietary intake of choline and betaine and lung cancer risk

PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e54561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054561. Epub 2013 Feb 1.


Evidence from human and animal research indicates that choline metabolic pathways may be activated during a variety of diseases, including cancer. We report results of a case-control study of 2821 lung cancer cases and 2923 controls that assessed associations of choline and betaine dietary intakes with lung cancer. Using multivariable logistic regression analyses, we report a significant association between higher betaine intake and lower lung cancer risk that varied by smoking status. Specifically, no significant association was observed between betaine intake and lung cancer among never-smokers. However, higher betaine intake was significantly associated with reduced lung cancer risk among smokers, and the protective effect was more evident among current than former smokers: for former and current smokers, the ORs (95% CI) of lung cancer for individuals with highest as compared to lowest quartiles of intake were 0.70(0.55-0.88) and 0.51(0.39-0.66) respectively. Significant linear trend of higher betaine intake and lower lung cancer risk was observed among both former (p(trend) = 0.002) and current (p(trend)<0.0001) smokers. A similar protective effect was also observed with choline intake both in overall analysis as well as among current smokers, with p-values for chi-square tests being 0.001 and 0.004 respectively, but the effect was less evident, as no linear trend was observed. Our results suggest that choline and betaine intake, especially higher betaine intake, may be protective against lung cancer through mitigating the adverse effect of smoking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Betaine / metabolism
  • Betaine / pharmacology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Choline / pharmacology*
  • Diet*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Texas / epidemiology


  • Betaine
  • Choline