Balchem exec: ‘This is an exciting time for choline, after many years of being overlooked’

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Last summer, the American Medical Association publicly supported an increase of choline amounts in all pre-natal supplements to 450mg/day. iStock
Last summer, the American Medical Association publicly supported an increase of choline amounts in all pre-natal supplements to 450mg/day. iStock
NHANES data says that 90% of Americans are not getting enough choline in their diet. With building science and awareness, experts believe choline is at a tipping point.

Recent trends indicate choline is poised to come out of the shadows—FDA called for manufacturers to voluntarily label choline on pack​ in an update to the Nutrition Facts label back in 2016, and the American Medical Association (AMA) publicly voiced support to increase choline​ in all prenatal vitamins to 450 mg/day.

Add to all that, this year marks the first time that the USDA and HHS, two federal agencies in charge of updating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) every five years, sought public comment for the 2020-2025 DGA​, providing an opportunity to raise the awareness of choline, a water-soluble nutrient linked to brain development and cognitive function.

“We clearly have established data from NHANES that ​[choline] intake is short. It’s a shortfall nutrient by definition—the US government has not said this in any of their reports, but the data shows Americans are not getting the adequate intake,” ​Duffy MacKay, ND, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at trade group Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) told NutraIngredients-USA.

He attended the Choline Roundtable in Washington DC back in February, an event funded and organized by the Choline Alliance, which consists of ingredient manufacturer Balchem Corporation, Egg Nutrition Center, and the Beef Checkoff.

Getting choline on the radar, especially for pregnant women and their healthcare practitioners

MacKay described the event as a place where “the world leaders in choline research” ​were brought together. Among them were Dr. Steven H. Zeisel of UNC Chapel Hill, and Marie Caudill of Cornell University.

A participant list supplied to NutraIngredients-USA shows that attendees consisted of US government agencies (including three divisions of NIH, CFSAN – FDA, and ARS), academia from various institutions (including Cornell University Lab and  Ohio State University), as well as healthcare practitioners and trade groups.

MacKay added that bringing all the choline researchers and stakeholders in one place with decision makers and policy makers helps make sure choline is on their radar. The event summarized the latest research on choline's role in human health, current choline consumption patterns, as well as identifying opportunities for including choline in future diteary guidance and educational resources.

It was a great opportunity to identify where we are with choline intake of the population, which is short, and increase awareness around making sure people get adequate choline,” ​he said. “Specifically for the pregnancy period, I think the scientist community really wants to emphasize that in the next iteration of the Dietary Guidelines, because for the first time, we’re looking at pregnancy and birth to 24 months.”

Dietary guideline input

All three members of the Choline Alliance submitted comments to the USDA and HHS regarding the next iteration of the dietary guidelines (Here’s Balchem’s​, the Egg Nutrition Center’s​, and The Beef Checkoff’s​), all of which raised awareness around choline.

The Dietary Guidelines are an important tool for what we call ‘translational science’ – distilling what is often quite complicated research down to key messages that average Americans use to guide their everyday dietary choices,”​ Tom Druke, director of VitaCholine brand development at Balchem Human Nutrition and Pharma told NutraIngredients-USA.

VitaCholine is the branded choline ingredient Balchem markets to the dietary supplement industry.

“In modern society we are constantly bombarded with messaging across a growing number of platforms, so clarity and frequency of message is crucial to effect change.”

“As a ‘forgotten nutrient,’ choline has quietly amassed a wealth of science that validates the central role it plays in neurocognitive development and metabolism, but has achieved very little recognition. We think the 2020 DGA offers our leading nutritional scientists and policy leaders an excellent opportunity to introduce choline to Americans as an under-consumed yet important nutrient,”​ he added.

MacKay concurred: “At a minimum, putting ​[choline] in the next iteration of the DGA will initiate awareness around choline and the importance of choline, and targeting foods containing choline, and supplementing if you’re not getting enough in your diet.”

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