Choline Health Benefits
Choline health benefits include potential help with BPH, although there is a possible increased risk of prostate cancer associated with choline. The main functions of choline are to maintain the integrity of cell membranes and to prevent accumulation of fats in the blood.
Choline is a member of the B-complex of vitamins, and betaine is its metabolite. Studies show that people whose diets contained higher levels of choline and betaine had lower concentrations of markers of chronic inflammation (overall 20% lower C-reaction protein, homocysteine, and tumor necrosis factor alpha) than people who had low dietary intake. (Detopoulou 2008) This means choline health benefits may extend to men who want to help prevent or treat BPH by reducing inflammation. However, no studies have looked at the relationship between choline/betaine and BPH.
A recent study revealed that elevated plasma concentrations of choline and vitamin B2 may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. (Johansson 2009) This may not be of concern for most men given that 90 percent of Americans are choline-deficient, according to a study from Iowa State University. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine set an Adequate Intake (AI) value for choline of 550 mg for men, the level determined necessary to prevent liver damage. To reach that goal, you need to eat foods rich in choline, including oatmeal, soybeans, cabbage, cauliflower, peanuts, and eggs.
When it comes to betaine, no RDA has been set for this choline metabolite because it is not considered an essential nutrient. (George Mateljan Foundation) Foods that are good sources of betaine include whole wheat products, beets, and spinach. Both choline and betaine are often ingredients in B-complex supplements.
Detopoulou P et al. Dietary choline and betaine intakes in relation to concentrations of inflammatory markers in healthy adults: the ATTICA study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008 Feb; 87(2): 424-30.
George Mateljan Foundation, information on choline health benefits:
Jensen HH et al. Choline in the diets of the US population: NHANES, 2003-2004. The FASEB Journal 2007; 21:lb219.
Johansson M et al. One-carbon metabolism and prostate cancer risk: prospective investigation of seven circulating B vitamins and metabolites. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009 May; 18(5): 1538-43.