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Choline and Inositol for Anxiety

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author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Choline and Inositol for Anxiety
Anxiety is a general term for excessive fear and worry. Photo Credit LittleBee80/iStock/Getty Images

Mild, short-term anxiety over life events such as a job loss is a normal aspect of life. About 40 million adults in the United States, however, experience more severe, long-lasting forms of anxiety. Even though anxiety disorders have a high rate of treatment success, you may opt to explore dietary changes and supplements as a complementary aspect of your treatment. Choline and inositol are two nutrients commonly promoted for relieving anxiety, but supportive evidence is lacking. Certain herbs and nutrients, however, do show promise in reducing the symptoms of anxiety.

Partners in Brain Function

Choline serves as the precursor to the brain chemical acetylcholine, which plays a role in cognitive function. Inositol also plays a role in brain function, and helps serotonin -- a brain chemical involved in boosting mood -- to function properly. Low inositol levels are linked to depression, according to the NYU Langone Medical Center. Beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and citrus fruits contain inositol hexaphosphate, which converts to inositol in the body. You can get choline from foods such as beef, eggs, fish, peanut butter and Brussels sprouts.

Inositol Ineffective

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of existing clinical data to determine whether inositol is effective for anxiety disorders. They reviewed several double-blind, placebo-controlled trials and published the results in the January 2014 issue of the journal "Human Psychopharmacology." Researchers found no statistically significant evidence to show that inositol is effective for anxiety. However, researchers noted that inositol appears slightly effective for depression.

The Case for Choline

A link exists between low choline levels and an increased risk for anxiety, according to a study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" October 2009 issue. Researchers found that the lowest choline levels were strongly linked with high-anxiety symptoms. On the other hand, higher choline levels were linked to decreased anxiety. While this is a promising connection, evidence is lacking to show that eating a choline-rich diet or using supplements benefits anxiety.

Other Nutrients and Herbs That Show Promise

Researchers from the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation examined a variety of nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety to determine if any were effective. They found the strongest evidence to support benefits from herbal supplements containing passionflower or kava. Researchers also found evidence showing a combination of the amino acids lysine and arginine may also reduce anxiety symptoms. The results were published in the October 2010 issue of the "Nutrition Journal."

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