Acetylcholine – the neurotransmitter of memory, muscle contraction, reward and attention.

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A rather confusing video clip about the very important neurotransmitter acetylcholine.  It propagates nerve impulses in both the brain and the body, which is why this video is there.  In other words it is vital in making muscles contract – without it, we would be heaps on the floor unable to lift a finger.  And it is vital in the brain for various functions including short term memory, arousal and alertness.  For instance, one treatment of Alzheimers is a drug that stops the breakdown of acetylcholine into its component parts.

And the component parts of acetylcholine are choline and acetyl Co-enzyme A.  These get bound together to form this neurotransmitter, and broken apart after they have docked into the receptor – other wise we would never be able to put that glass of wine back down again, since their break apart makes the muscles relax their contraction.  In the brain, for example the drug that they have developed to help Alzheimers delays this breakdown , and so helps the formation short term memories.

So it is clearly a vital neurotransmitter and where it gets interesting is the best dietary sources of the 2 components.  Well acetyl Co-A is a by product of activity.  When we get active, we generate energy by burning sugar with oxygen to form something well known to the exercising world, ATP.  A by product of this is acetyl Co-A.  So getting busy helps.

The other source is dietary and it is choline.  The best sources of choline in the diet are egg yolks, organ meats – eg liver, kidneys, fatty meats, fish, lecithin and cruciferous vegetables – these are sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage.  Now from everything that I have heard, the best sources of choline are the animal or fish products.  Which leads me to my favourite meal of the day, breakfast.  Acetylcholine is a very important neurotransmitter to get up and running in the morning, so the best breakfast to eat for this end is animal or fish based.  Choline itself has various other vital jobs to do in the body, which will form another blog, so it is very important to get good dietary sources of it.  What I can’t get to the bottom of is that there is a difference in the uptake of animal and vegetable sources of choline, and I also keep reading that vegetarians suffer from choline deficiency. Now since it is readily available in soy-lecithin, wheat germ as well as lovely sprouts and  since lecithin is added to many foods as a thickener, frequently in its soy version, why are vegetarians short of it?  What I suspect is that the animal versions are better uptaken by the body, for reasons that the blog about chelation will go into.  But so far I can find no studies to back this suspicion up.

Anway, the people who are short of choline are strict vegetarians, endurance athletes and people who drink heavily.  People who have greater need of it are pregnant or nursing mothers and post-menopausal women.  More another time.

So to get the body and brain up and running in the morning, to perk up the memory and snap to attention, the best breakfast could be bacon and eggs, provided it is varied with beef steak, liver or pork chops for some ideas.  Nuts are also a reasonable source of choline1 so the combination of meat and nuts leads to excellent mental function all day.  And an excellent workout at the appropriate time.

  1. This can be checked on the US Dept Agriculture National Nutrient Data Base.  Sometimes this source gives the choline of a foodstuff and sometimes not, which is frustrating.  And, for instance, when looking up eggs, they seem only to be listed as scrambled, frozen or Macdonalds scrambled.  Dear me. []

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