Variations in plasma choline and metabolite concentrations in healthy adults

Alejandra M. Wiedeman, Roger A. Dyer, Timothy J. Green, Zhaoming Xu, Susan I. Barr, Sheila M. Innis, David D. Kitts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Plasma concentrations of choline and its metabolites might serve as biomarkers for the health outcomes of several pathological states such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, information about the reliability of biomarkers of choline status is limited. We investigated biological variations in repeated measures of choline and metabolites in healthy adults to assess them as biomarkers. Methods: Blood samples were collected after an overnight fast at three-time points 12 days apart from 40 adults (mean age, 33 y; male, n = 21). A subset (n = 19; [male, n = 8]) provided one additional sample after a breakfast meal. Plasma free choline, betaine and dimethylglycine were measured using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, and plasma phosphatidylcholine, sphingomyelin and lysophosphatidylcholine were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography. Results: The biological variations observed for choline and metabolites were ≤ 13% for adult fasting samples. This corresponded to intra-class correlations (ICC) that ranged from 0.593 to 0.770 for fasting values for choline and metabolites. A similar ICC range was also obtained between fasting and post-prandial states. Although most post-prandial concentrations of choline and metabolites were significantly higher (P <.05) than fasting, all fell within a calculated reference interval. The participants were correctly classified in tertiles for fasting and post-prandial states for choline (68%) and metabolites (range = 32% phosphatidylcholine and 79% for sphingomyelin). Conclusions: These findings indicate that biological variations of choline and metabolites are low in healthy adults and values from a single blood sample can be used as a biomarker. However, choosing phosphatidylcholine as a biomarker is less reliable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-83
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Biochemistry
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Adults
  • Biomarker
  • Choline status
  • Fasting
  • Intra-individual variability
  • Post-prandial


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