Harvard Health Letter

A possible brain food that you've probably never heard of

Choline may labor in obscurity — if you haven't heard of it, you're in the majority — but it's an essential nutrient that does important work in the body.

And now there's some research that lends some credence to claims that the nutrient may be something of a "brain food" that fends off cognitive decline in old age.

Choline (pronounced KO-lean) plays a critical role in a wide variety of biochemical chain reactions, including some that are necessary for very basic functions, like keeping cell membranes intact. It and a more familiar vitamin, folate, share a nutritional teeter-totter: the less folate in your diet, the more choline you need, because choline serves the same function as folate in several metabolic pathways.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »