The biochemical compound called choline is often classed as a vitamin, one reason for it being the deleterious effect on health due to low dietary levels of this vitamin. Several neurological disorders can be treated using choline, these diseases include serious disorders such as tardive dyskinesia, cases of Huntington's disease, as well as Gilles de la Tourette's disease or syndrome, disorders such as Friedreich's ataxia, disorders like presenile dementia, disorders like long term manic depression as well as cases of Alzheimer's disease.

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The role of the compound choline in maintaining normal neurological function is the main key to its great importance in all the alleviation of many kinds of neurological disorders. The compound choline forms an important part of the neurotransmistting substance called acetylcholine. The presence of a compound called a neurotransmitter is essential during the salutatory movement of a nerve impulse that occurs when the impulse must jump the gap from one neuron to the other. The apparent simplicity of this reaction must not make one lose sight of its great biochemical significance. Nerve impulse conduction is in fact, the very basis of how we humans act and feel.

These nerve impulses can often be disrupted as an effect of certain types of medications that are used on psychotic patients, this situation produces what is commonly called tardive dyskinesia - some medications that can induce this conditions are the psychotic medications called haloperidol and phenothiazine. This disruption in the nerve impulses can induce an extreme or grotesque loss of control over the conscious control of the facial muscles in the affected person. Physical symptoms of this loss of control over the facial muscles include sudden bouts of chewing, involuntary grimaces, puckering and sudden protrusions of the tongue. In the past, nothing must could be done in the way of a remedy for individuals who suffered from this man made or iatrogenic - or doctor induced - disorder, the only thing that could be done was for the patient to stop using the medication, this form of treatment normally caused a worsening of the mental symptoms and added to the lingering effects of the tardive dyskinesia already evident in the patient.

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One of the first things that most doctors of medicine theorized was that the disorder called tardive dyskinesia was induced by the interference of the medication in the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine within the central nervous system. At the same time, it was found in the midst of similar animal based research that high levels of dietary choline could affect the brain levels of acetylcholine in animal studied in the experiments. A great leap in scientific investigation resulted in the next discoveries that would shed more light on the action of this compound in the human body. In some of the therapies that the doctors tried out, they gave high doses of choline in order to boost the brain levels of acetylcholine to people affected by tardive dyskinesia. As nobody till date has volunteered to have his or her brain dissected to measure the absolute levels of acetylcholine present in the neurons, it was observed that giving high doses of the compound choline did indeed seem to induce a beneficial effect on the individuals affected by tardive dyskinesia. Twenty patients suffering from tardive dyskinesia were investigated in a clinical setting during one study, in this study the patients suffering from psychiatric symptoms of tardive dyskinesia were all given massive doses of choline - at about 150 mg per kilogram of body weight per day for the first week, followed by doses of 200 mg per kg daily later on. Some results of these experiments were a gradual reduction in the muscular spasms affecting nine people, while it actually worsened in one patient, and remained unchanged in ten of the patients. The results of this experiment were much more than were seen in any of the other treatments tried out on patients suffering from the same disorder. The high doses of the compound choline did not disrupt the positive therapeutic effects of other psychiatric drugs given to patients suffering from the same disorders. Supplementing with choline produced even better results in other trials of a similar nature. Elderly or aged individuals were the main voluntary patients in most of the studies mentioned above; these patients had also been on different medications for years altogether. As the beneficial effects of choline supplements were not seen in some of these patients, the speculative belief of some doctors is that, the use of choline might not have been enough to suppress all of the accumulative effects of the many medications such patients had already used over a long period of time.

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The sudden onset of partial or complete memory loss is usually the first symptom of Alzheimer's disease. The chemical acetylcholine is believed by most researchers to be the main chemical involved in regulating memory functions at the level of nerve cells in the human body. This may indeed be a fact, and increasing the intake of acetylcholine in the diet can result in an increase in the concentrations of acetylcholine in the diet and result in an improvement in the memory. The results from several studies where Alzheimer's disease patients were given supplementary choline are indeed something to look forward to almost as a panacea.

Tardive dyskinesia has similarities to Huntington's chorea or what is called Huntington's disease - in both diseases the sufferer can lose their control over certain muscles in the body. However, compared to tardive dyskinesia, this condition is not brought about by the use of medications alone and some patients can be affected by dementia along with the spasms in the muscles. While supplements of choline have brought significant success in the treatment of tardive dyskinesia affected patents, the same has not been true in the treatment of this disease, even though the results are encouraging enough to warrant further study of the disorder for the eventual welfare of patients already suffering from this disease.

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As far as diseases that affect the nervous system are concerned, the compound choline is increasingly being viewed more positively and its potential applications in treating diseases of the nervous system is being appreciated as evidence gathers from clinical studies carried out around the world. Recent Europe based research gives evidence that this vitamin like compound can be effective in treating depressive diseases of all kinds. A range of symptoms that affected eight psychiatric patients was studied in a clinical controlled setting, these symptoms included problems like hypochondria, persistent depression, constant sleeplessness, suicidal tendencies and paranoia, persistent problems like anxiety and moodiness among others. The administration of choline injections brought about significant improvements in all the patients who were affected by these symptoms. The complete elimination of depression in the patients under investigation was the most consistent effect induced by choline injections.

These positive benefits of choline has also come from the evidence received in animal experiments that shows that a daily diet deficient in choline produces cardiovascular lesions in test animals if it is also high in fats, a similar diet supplemented with high doses of choline will not induce the same symptoms in such animals. At the same time, results from other similar animal experiments have shown that supplementing with choline can also protect the animals against the adverse effects of a high fat diet particularly when toxic doses of vitamin D are involved - a situation that results in the formation of all sorts of cardiovascular lesions in the test subjects. A clinical study was also conducted to measure the long term effects of supplementary choline on the mortality from heart disease in different patients - while one group consisting of a 115 heart patients were given supplements of choline, another equal group was given a placebo or nothing and served as a control. When the groups were comparatively evaluated, there were thirty deaths reported among the group that did not receive any supplements in three years and this was in stark contradiction to only twelve deaths in the supplemented group within the same three year span of measurement.

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There are a wide range of dosages available for supplemental choline supplements - these ranges from a few milligrams per tablet to tablets that are several hundred milligrams per dose. Supplemental choline of some types can have a negative effect in that they are easily degraded by the bacteria in the gut and this leads to the production of a chemical substance that brings out a fishy odor from the mouth. As the compound lecithin is absorbed by the intestine, the same problem is not seen in people who use supplements of lecithin. There is a major disadvantage with the use of lecithin as the compound can bring in a significant number of calories into the body.

The toxic effect of excess choline is mild in comparison to other compounds and nutrients. Symptoms such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea and nausea were evident in some of the patients when choline was used at high doses in some of the psychiatric experiments involving patients with tardive dyskinesia. Depression was also evident in a small number of choline supplemented psychiatric patients.

Lecithin, an oily compound sourced from soybeans or corn and found in egg yolks and milk is the best natural source for choline used in supplements. Lecithin was used as the main source of choline in some of the studies mentioned above. Choline is almost always found in other sources of B vitamins, in foods like yeast and whole grains, in fish and eggs, in liver, other organ meats and legumes.

There is very little known about the real nature of a human deficiency of choline as deficiency in this nutrient is rare. At the same time a choline deficiency has been artificially induced in test subjects in a clinical setting.

Usual dosage

Most of the multi-vitamin supplements and the majority of the B-complex vitamins contain small amounts of choline as part of the nutrient complex.

Side effects and cautions

If choline is taken in doses of several grams a day, some people can experience great abdominal discomfort, prolonged bouts of diarrhea or even nausea. A fishy odor can become evident in the body if straight choline is supplement for a long time in large doses exceeding 1,000 mg daily, as opposed to supplements of the compound phosphatidylcholine. A high dose of phosphatidylcholine does not induce this side effect in the person even when taken for long periods of time.

Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and phosphatidylcholine are involved in the formation of acetylcholine - the neurotransmitter in the human body.

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