A Common variation in choline metabolism gene affects the levels of choline that is produced in the body, and is closely related to brain health, lipid transportation and not so unimportant for athletes, sport performance and recuperation!

Choline is a water-soluble vitamin-like essential nutrient that belongs to the B-vitamin family. Choline is an essential but often overlooked nutrient involved in many processes in our bodies. To name a few: metabolism, brain health, neurotransmitter synthesis, liver health & lipid transport and methylation.

Our bodies can produce choline internally via the PEMT enzyme (phosphatidylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase), but the production of choline via this enzyme is not enough for most people (especially men, as the activity of this enzyme is boosted by oestrogen)*. The estimation is that men with normal PEMT activity need around 550mg choline a day from an external source (nutrition).

A very common genetic variation (read mutation) in the PEMT gene significantly lowers the endogenous (= your own internal) production of choline*. As choline is used to build the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and this neurotransmitter is very important for muscle contraction, you can guess the influence it can have on performance! But the influence is even bigger on recuperation. Our body ‘knows’ the importance of muscle contraction and therefor give a high priority to the production of acetylcholine. It will scavenge the choline from other the molecules that are also built with it (more specific phosphatidylcholine or PC), to make more of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This PC is found in membranes of human cells and it case of a shortage of choline, the choline is mainly stolen from PC in muscle cell membranes (and from the liver). This results in higher muscle breakdown, and can often be seen in a blood panel by increased bio-markers for muscle breakdown. As low levels of acetylcholine also effect circadian rhythm and sleep badly (acetylcholine is also the neurotransmitter of the autonomic nervous system), you have a triple negative effect for performance and recuperation.

One can conclude that some athletes might need much more dietary choline than others. The 4Gold DNA tool checks which genetic variant you have of the PEMT gene (together with many other genes). And this way it gives you an indication about how much choline support is recommended and which supplements are best for optimal performance.

* da Costa, Kerry-Ann & G Kozyreva, Olga & Song, Jiannan & A Galanko, Joseph & M Fischer, Leslie & Zeisel, Steven. (2006). Common genetic polymorphisms affect the human requirement for the nutrient choline. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. 20. 1336-44.

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