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A new study in mice shows that choline deficiency increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers fed mice that are predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease either a choline-rich or choline-poor diet for seven months, starting in midlife until late life. They subjected the mice to motor and memory skills tests, and then they examined the animals' brains and other organs.

They found that mice that ate a choline-poor diet had higher brain levels of amyloid-beta and tau – two proteins implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease – than those that ate a choline-rich diet. The mice that ate a choline-poor diet also gained weight, showed signs of altered metabolism, liver damage, and enlarged hearts, and performed poorly on motor skills tests.

Choline is an essential nutrient that supports the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in neurogenesis, synapse formation, learning, and memory. It is produced in the liver and is also found in foods such as eggs, meat, fish, beans, and nuts and as a dietary supplement. Most people living in the United States don’t consume enough choline – 550 milligrams per day for men and 425 milligrams per day for women – potentially increasing their risk for various diseases.

These findings suggest that choline deficiency increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and damages vital organs in mice. For a tasty way to get more choline into your diet, try this low-carb, choline-rich lemon tart.

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