If you're overweight or have diabetes, there's a good chance your liver is in serious trouble. Both situations can hinder your liver from processing fat appropriately. And they can lead to liver disease. But you can protect your liver - and even protect your brain - with a little-known nutrient.

Choline, a B vitamin, is an absolute necessity for your liver to process fat and for your brain to function properly. It also has important functions in your nervous system. It's the key component in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which declines with Alzheimer's.

Unfortunately, most people don't get nearly enough choline. A recent study followed 36 men, 16 premenopausal women, and 15 postmenopausal women. The researchers wanted to find out the choline requirements for both genders and for women in different menopausal stages.

The researchers had the participants eat a diet with the recommended Adequate Intake for choline, which is 550 mg per 150 pounds of weight. Then, they deprived the participants of adequate choline. They gave them about 10% of the Adequate Intake.

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Here's what they discovered: With deprivation, 80% of the postmenopausal women and 77% of the men developed fatty liver or muscle damage. Only 44% of the premenopausal women suffered the same. Deficiency also induced higher plasma homocysteine levels.

However, that's not all they found. Even though the Adequate Intake of choline (550 mg daily) showed protection, it wasn't enough. While the women took the larger amount of choline, 10 of them still developed signs of a fatty liver. So did 22% of the men. The researchers concluded that sex and menopausal status are factors in the need for choline. But they also suggested that the Adequate Intake level increase.

I'm not as concerned about the politics behind the Adequate Intake level as I am about the amount you get. Obviously, the older you are, the more you need. I recommend you start by eating foods that are high in choline. These include eggs, organ meats, nuts, and to a lesser extent, leafy greens.

You also can take choline in supplemental form. I like a combination of choline and inositol. A good starting dose is 500 mg of choline once or twice daily. There will usually be an equal amount of inositol in the capsule. Choline is added to many high-quality multivitamin products (such as Healthy Resolve's Max Plus
www.healthyresolve.com/maxplus). So make sure you take this into consideration when taking extra.

I also recommend you consider betaine, lecithin, or even better, essential phospholipids. Each of these will substantially increase your choline levels.

"Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline," Fischer LM, daCosta KA, et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 2007; 85(5): 1275-85.

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