Context: Choline is a precursor of both betaine and acetylcholine and might, therefore, influence cardiovascular and cognitive outcomes. There has been concern, however, that it may influence blood lipid levels because it is an essential component of very-low-density lipoproteins.
Objective: The aim was to systematically review, using PRISMA guidelines, the literature pertaining to the effects of choline on body composition and on metabolic, cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurological outcomes in different life stages.
Data sources: The MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Central, Web of Science, PubMed, and Google Scholar databases were searched up to July 2014.
Data extraction: Fifty relevant articles were identified. These comprised trials and cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies that assessed blood levels of choline, dietary intake of choline, and supplementation with choline in a population free of diseases at baseline.
Data synthesis: There is some observational evidence that choline during pregnancy may be beneficial for the neurological health of the child. In adults, choline may have beneficial effects on cognition, but high-quality (intervention) studies are lacking. Results on the effects of choline on body composition, blood lipids, and cardiovascular health were inconsistent.
Conclusions: Evidence to confirm the suggested effects of choline on health in different stages of life is scarce. Potential effects of choline need to be confirmed by intervention studies. Possible harmful effects on cardiometabolic health need careful evaluation.
Keywords: body composition; cardiovascular health; choline; metabolic health; neurology.
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