EFSA's big data: Huge cross-border study on choline intakes in EU

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

EFSA puts its impressive database to use: 67,000 individuals, 33 surveys, 18 EU countries
EFSA puts its impressive database to use: 67,000 individuals, 33 surveys, 18 EU countries

Related tags: Nutrition

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has used its vast consumption database to look at average EU choline intakes for the first time.

The paper – authored by EFSA and eight member state agencies – included data from EFSA's European Comprehensive Food Consumption Database.

The database drew on national-level consumption surveys and by the end of 2014 contained consumption data for about 67,000 individuals from 33 surveys representing 18 EU countries.

The paper used the US Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database for comparison and found average European choline intakes for most age groups were below the adequate intakes (AI) set by the Institute of Medicine​ in the US back in 1998 based on age and sex. 

There are currently no national intake estimates for choline in Europe.

"Estimating the choline intake in different European countries could provide insight into choline intake at a national level. In addition, ranges of choline intake between the different countries could be obtained for Europe,"​ the researchers wrote. 

Average intakes for the European population were calculated at:

  • 151–210 mg/d among toddlers (one to three years old)
  •  177–304 mg/d among other children (three to ten years old)
  •  244–373 mg/d among adolescents (ten to 18 years old)
  •  291–468 mg/d among adults (18 to 65 years old)
  •  284–450 mg/d among elderly people (65 to 75 years old)
  • 269–444 mg/d among very elderly people (over 75 years old)

Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, ​the study found that intakes were higher among males compared to females, mainly due to larger quantities of food consumed daily.

The main food groups contributing to the intake were meat, milk, grain, egg and related products and fish.

“Such results improve the knowledge on choline intake in Europe that could be further refined by the collection of choline composition data for foods as consumed in Europe,”​ the researchers wrote.

The authors warned the omission of supplement use meant these averages could be understated.

At the time of this study, it was not known whether choline was common in the supplements consumed by the European population,”​ they wrote.

They added that the estimates could not be used in country-to-country comparisons because of differences in methodology.

“Harmonisation of methodologies for collecting food consumption surveys are underway, but fully harmonised consumption data at the European level are not expected before 2020.”

In the EU there are three authorised choline health claims for contribution to normal homocysteine metabolism, normal lipid metabolism and maintenance of normal liver function.

“Deficiency of choline has been associated with fatty liver, liver damage and muscle damage,”​ the researchers wrote.

Meanwhile past research linked the B vitamin to improved long-term memory and attention-holding capacity​.

The data was compiled by researchers at EFSA, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Robert Koch Institute in Germany, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in Finland, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), Research Center on Food and Nutrition (CRA-NUT) in Italy, the Swedish National Food Agency, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) and the Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment (BIOR) in Latvia.


Source: British Journal of Nutrition

Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1017/S0007114515003700

“Dietary intake and food sources of choline in European populations”

Authors: F. B. C. Vennemann, S. Ioannidou, L. M. Valsta, C. Dumas, M. C. Ocké, G. B. M. Mensink, O. Lindtner, S.  M. Virtanen, C. Tlustos, L. D’Addezio, I. Mattison, C. Dubuisson, I Siksna and F. Héraud

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