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Choline, an essential nutrient found in eggs, meat, fish, beans, and nuts, supports the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in neurogenesis, synapse formation, learning, and memory. Most people living in the US don’t consume enough choline – 550 milligrams per day for men and 425 milligrams per day for women – potentially increasing their risk for various diseases. A 2019 study in mice found that lifelong choline supplementation prevented Alzheimer’s disease and preserved cognitive function.

Researchers fed mice susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease a regular diet or a diet supplemented with choline from early life to old age. When the mice reached the age of 10 months, the researchers assessed the animals' memory function and examined their brain tissue.

They found that mice that received lifelong choline supplementation had better spatial memory and fewer amyloid-beta plaques in their brains than those on a regular diet. They also found that the mechanisms driving these effects were related to reduced amyloid-beta peptide synthesis, a dampened microglia inflammatory response, and downregulation of the alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine and sigma-1 receptors, both of which are critical for various neurological processes.

These findings suggest that lifelong choline supplementation mitigates Alzheimer’s disease pathology and maintains cognitive function in mice susceptible to the disease. Other research showed that mice that ate a choline-poor diet had higher brain levels of amyloid-beta and tau – two proteins implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease – than those that ate a choline-rich diet. The mice that ate a choline-poor diet also gained weight, showed signs of altered metabolism, liver damage, and enlarged hearts, and performed poorly on motor skills tests.

More than 55 million people worldwide live with Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more about the disease and how to prevent it in this episode featuring Dr. Dale Bredesen.

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