National Institutes of Health Awards Grant to Assess Choline Status


The four-year, $2.6 million grant was awarded to help develop and validate a laboratory test panel for assessing human choline status.

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With results of a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey showing that 90% of American adults fail to get the recommended 550 mg/day of choline, the award of a four-year, $2.6 million grant to develop and validate a laboratory test panel for assessing human choline status couldn’t be more timely.

The award, given by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health, went to Steven H. Zeisel, MD, PhD, director of the Nutrition Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, officially recognizing the proof-of-concept data that Zeisel generated in an earlier pilot study funded by Balchem Corporation (New Hampton, NY).

Choline is an essential nutrient, and extended deficiency can cause muscle damage and fatty liver. Further, research1 shows that maternal choline intakes of 930 mg/day during the last trimester of pregnancy-significantly higher than the seldom-met Dietary Reference Intake for pregnant women of 450 mg/day-may encourage faster information processing in infants at all ages.

But no good validated biomarkers for assessing choline nutritional status are currently practical for application in clinical or public health settings.

Speaking in a press statement, Zeisel said: “We need a better lab test that health professionals can use to assess a person’s choline status given the narrow range for healthy intake of choline, the three-fold variation in dietary intake in the U.S., and the effects of common genetic variants on requirements for choline. With the recent establishment by the Food and Drug Administration of a Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of choline, awareness of this critical nutrient is growing and health professionals will need diagnostic tools to help consumers make good choices for health.”

Tom Druke, director of VitaCholine brand development for Balchem Human Nutrition and Pharma, added: “This grant is an important step in supporting human heath by providing a tool that will motivate people to get adequate amounts of choline once they are able to find out what their levels actually are.” The company, he said, “is proud to have supported this groundbreaking research.”

And support for choline discovery will continue as key stakeholders from universities, research centers, associations, and government organizations including the NIH, HHS, FDA, and USDA meet as part of a Choline Roundtable to assess the science and address public health needs, review choline levels in the population, discuss choline as a nutrient of public health concern, and develop strategies for addressing the well-known choline gap.


  1. Jiang X et al., “Maternal choline intake alters the epigenetic state of fetal cortisol-regulating genes in humans,” Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, vol. 26, no. 8 (August 2012): 3563-3574
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