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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Daniel

Choline is an essential nutrient for normal body functioning, but excess choline can increase the risk of chronic disease and cause unpleasant side effects.

Dangers of Excess Choline

Among the highest sources of choline in the standard American diet are eggs (the most concentrated common source of both choline and cholesterol), milk, and meats, including poultry and seafood. Our gut bacteria can turn choline into the toxic byproduct and cardiotoxicant TMAO—trimethylamine oxide—which is then absorbed back into our system within only an hour of consumption. The more eggs we eat, the higher the choline and TMAO levels we have, and the higher the risk we may have for heart disease and other diseases. Choline, as well as carnitine in red meat, can be turned into TMAO, which is associated with inflammation and a significantly higher risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, or death within a three-year period.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found dietary choline may contribute to plaque buildup in our arteries.

The Choline-Cancer Connection

Higher choline levels in the blood have been associated with a greater risk of getting prostate cancer. The choline in eggs may both increase one’s risk of getting cancer, abetting its spread, and also dying from it. Studies found that egg consumption led to a 70% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer. Another recent study found that men who consumed 2.5 or more eggs per week had an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer.

Harvard researchers speculated that the TMAO from high dietary choline intake may increase inflammation, and this may promote progression of prostate cancer to lethal disease. Researchers found a spike in TMAO when participants ate hard-boiled eggs.

Eating eggs, meat, and dairy may increase our risk for disease, regardless of what our cholesterol is, due to choline and its toxic byproduct, TMAO.

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