Habitual Choline Intakes across the Childbearing Years: A Review

Nutrients. 2021 Dec 8;13(12):4390. doi: 10.3390/nu13124390.


Choline is an important nutrient during the first 1000 days post conception due to its roles in brain function. An increasing number of studies have measured choline intakes at the population level. We collated the evidence focusing on habitual choline intakes in the preconceptual, pregnancy, and lactation life stages. We conducted a review including studies published from 2004 to 2021. Twenty-six relevant publications were identified. After excluding studies with a high choline intake (>400 mg/day; two studies) or low choline intake (<200 mg/day; one study), average choline intake in the remaining 23 studies ranged from 233 mg/day to 383 mg/day, even with the inclusion of choline from supplements. Intakes were not higher in studies among pregnant and lactating women compared with studies in nonpregnant women. To conclude, during the childbearing years and across the globe, habitual intakes of choline from foods alone and foods and supplements combined appear to be consistently lower than the estimated adequate intakes for this target group. Urgent measures are needed to (1) improve the quality of choline data in global food composition databases, (2) encourage the reporting of choline intakes in dietary surveys, (3) raise awareness about the role(s) of choline in foetal-maternal health, and (4) consider formally advocating the use of choline supplements in women planning a pregnancy, pregnant, or lactating.

Keywords: choline; essential nutrient; intake; lactation; preconception; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Choline / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult


  • Choline