Essential Ingredients

Meet Dr. Jonathan Bortz from Balchem, Ritual’s Choline Supplier

5 min read

Tell us a little bit about your company and how it’s different from other players in the nutraceutical space.

Albion Minerals®, a subsidiary of Balchem, is the world’s leading provider of Choline and chelated and organic minerals for human nutrition. Its brands VitaCholine® and Albion Minerals have established a reputation over the past 70 years for bringing innovative technologies to improve health in the food, beverage, dietary supplement and prescriptive markets.

Over the years, the company has had over 100 patents issued, and its products studied in over 70 human clinical trials. Balchem invests in science and technology to deliver safer, more bioavailable, and better tolerated nutritional compounds with the highest industry standards. Balchem continues to invest in pre-clinical and clinical studies and is proud to advance science and contribute to a better and more comprehensive understanding of the value of nutrients.

The FDA recently assigned Choline a daily value for the first time. Can you talk a little bit about what this means?

First of all, this has been a long time in the making. Back in 1998, the Institute of Medicine recognized Choline as an essential ingredient. In 2015, the USDA identified Choline as one of the ‘shortfall nutrients’ that most people do not get enough of from food.

In 2016, the FDA established the RDI at 550mg. This number is based on a study performed by Dr. Steve Zeisel that showed a dose of 550mg was required to prevent abnormal elevation of liver enzymes in healthy adult men. Elevation of liver enzymes is an early sign of significant Choline shortfalls. So, in other words, 550mg is the minimum amount required for men to prevent leakage of enzymes out of normal liver cells. The requirement is lower for women (425mg).

Why do women need Choline when pregnant?

In 2017, the American Medical Association (AMA) recommended Choline consumption during pregnancy. Like the FDA, the AMA confirmed that over 90% of Americans don't consume the recommended daily requirements.
Women need Choline when pregnant because Choline requirements increase dramatically in the third trimester. This increase corresponds to the accelerated rate of central nervous system development in the fetus.*

Breast milk is naturally high in Choline, which supports the infant’s developing brain. This is why Choline is also included in infant formulas, and is an essential nutrient as the infant brain continues to develop at a high rate for at least 2 years. *

Furthermore, most people know that taking folate supplements while pregnant helps support healthy neural tube development; very few people know that Choline is also important in this role.. So, for several very important reasons, adequate Choline is critical in pregnancy. *

Are there genetic factors that prevent women from absorbing enough Choline?

Yes, over 50% of Caucasian women in the US have a minor variation in the PEMT gene that facilitates the body’s own production of Choline in pregnancy. This variation may reduce the mom’s ability to produce adequate Choline during the last trimester.

What happens if you don’t get enough Choline/signs of low levels?

Low amounts of Choline may be common, but larger gaps are not readily recognized by professionals.

Choline is an important component of a lipoprotein called Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL). VLDL carries triglycerides (a type of fat) out of your liver and into other parts of the body. VLDL is a portable vault and its membrane is largely composed of phospatidylCholine. So when Choline is in short supply, there is less VLDL and this may lead to other effects. Fatty liver also plays a role in creating insulin resistance.*

What kinds of studies have you conducted on your ingredient to show that it’s important during pregnancy for mom and baby?

Balchem’s VitaCholine has been used in several human studies, some of which have demonstrated that supplementing Choline during the last trimester and first 3 months of nursing is associated with neurologic processing and stress hormone levels in infants. Other studies are ongoing to evaluate whether the neurological benefits seen in infants persist into childhood. *

Choline has also been shown to play a pivotal role in transporting DHA around the body and across the placenta. The developing brain contains about 75% DHA.*

Your Choline is a trademarked ingredient. What makes it different?

The VitaCholine brand includes the two most commonly used Choline salts in the food and supplement industries. Choline in the form of salt doesn't need to be broken down to be absorbed--unlike other forms including phoshatidylCholine and cytidine diphosphate.

VitaCholine contains Choline bitatrate (CBT) and Choline chloride. Choline bitatrate (CBT) is used in most tablets and capsules and is approved as a dietary ingredient. Choline chloride is used in most infant formulas and powder products or beverages. Both products are uniquely classified as USP verified and non-GMO verified.

Is there anything about the actual manufacturing process of this ingredient that makes it more beneficial than ordinary Choline?

Standard Choline can have an unpleasant smell. VitaCholine is produced using a ‘low odor technology’ that helps counteract this quality.

Can you tell us a little bit about how your Choline is sourced?

While the Choline itself is a synthetic compound, the tartaric acid in the Choline bitatrate (CBT) inside VitaCholine is derived from grape extract. This is one of the reasons why our CBT is GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA and USP and USP verified. Most other Choline manufacturers use synthetic tartaric acid, which unlike VitaCholine’s CBT, does not have a safety and toxicology review because it is not GRAS.

Why is it important that this ingredient is non-GMO verified?

There is a growing demand for non-GMO food and supplement products. VitaCholine, being about 66% derived from natural sources, meets all the non-GMO criterion. VitaCholine can also be used to fortify organic foods.

Albion Minerals® is a registered trademark of Albion Laboratories, Inc