Choline is grouped with the B vitamins. In the strictest sense of the word, choline is not a vitamin because humans can manufacture small amounts of it. But dietary consumption of choline is necessary because we cannot synthesize enough to maintain health. Most of the choline in the body is found in phospholipids, the most common of which is lecithin, or phosphtidylcholine.
Choline is important for the integrity of the cell membranes (which are partially made of phosphlipids). It is also important for cell signaling, which is communication among individual cells so as to coordinate their behavior to benefit the organism as a whole. Choline is important for fat metabolism, and without adequate choline, fat can accumulate around the liver. Choline is necessary for the production of acetylcholine, which is an important neurotransmitter.
Recent research, appearing in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal (FASEB J) epublished January 29, 2008 ahead of print, found that choline may play a role in preventing breast cancer. The researchers compared dietary data from 1,508 women with breast cancer and 1,556 women without breast cancer. They found that women who consumed the most choline (more than 450 mg/day), had a lower incidence of breast cancer when compared to women who did not consume a lot of choline. Women consuming 450 mg/day of choline have a 24% lower risk of breast cancer when compared to women who consume less than 200 mg/day of the nutrient.