Choline can be made by your body, but only in small amounts, so it is important to consume this nutrient as a part of a healthy diet, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Choline deficiency disease can cause a number of serious health problems if it is not corrected.
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Choline is involved in cell membrane function, communication between the nerves and muscles and reducing homocysteine and inflammation in the body. It is also necessary for metabolizing and transporting fats within the body so they don't build up in the liver.
People who are deficient in choline may be fatigued, suffer from insomnia, accumulate fat in the blood and liver, have trouble with their memory and have nerve and muscle problems, according to the George Mateljan Foundation. Choline deficiency can also make it difficult for the kidneys to properly concentrate urine, and may make folate deficiency more likely.
Choline is found in a number of foods, including beef, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butter, cauliflower, cod, egg yolk, flax seed, lentils, liver, milk, oats, peanuts, potatoes, salmon, sesame seeds, shrimp, soybeans and wheat germ. Lecithin added to foods during processing also provides some choline. People can take choline supplements if needed.
In those who are deficient in vitamin B-3, the amino acid methionine or folate are more likely to be deficient in choline, as are people with liver problems and those who are on total-parenteral nutrition and those who have had kidney transplants or bypass surgery, according to the George Mateljan Foundation. Vegetarians who do not consume milk or eggs may also have a higher risk for this deficiency.
Too much choline can cause a fishy odor and low-blood pressure, causing a person to be dizzy or faint. The Linus Pauling Institute recommends sticking to the adequate intake of 550 mg per day for men and 425 mg per day for women. However, those on methotrexate may require a higher dosage, as this drug interferes with the availability of choline. Pregnant and nursing women also have higher requirements, with adequate intakes of 450 mg per day and 550 mg per day respectively.
Pregnant women who are deficient in choline may have babies with reduced blood vessel growth in the brain, according to a 2010 article by Vicki Contie published on the National Institutes of Health website. Contie states that fewer than 15 percent of pregnant women consume enough choline in their diets.