Lack of this Nutrient May Induce Muscle Cramps. Spoiler – It’s Not Magnesium

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Lack of this Nutrient May Induce Muscle Cramps. Spoiler – It’s Not Magnesium


An expert panel of 6 medical specialists recently published a study on choline and its role in muscle metabolism.  This nutrient – just as important but lesser known compared to its B vitamin cousins – plays a fundamental role in muscle physiology and its deficiency may be a cause of muscle cramping, in otherwise apparently healthy people.  

Perhaps choline’s most well-known function is its role as part of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is a potent chemical messenger between nerve cells and muscles.  Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter discovered.  It is the key physiological link that tells our muscles to contract.  This is why drugs (prescription and otherwise) that interfere with the acetylcholine messaging system can have potentially devastating side effects like paralysis and seizures.  The role of choline in muscle contraction is well established.  But clinically, most people intuitively think of muscle cramps as a magnesium deficiency.   Sometimes this is the case.  But magnesium deficiency is not the only nutrient deficiency that may manifest via muscle problems.

In this review of 28 relevant studies, the authors delve into the functions of choline in regulating muscle contraction beyond its role as a precursor of acetylcholine.  For example, choline regulates intracellular calcium and therefore muscle contraction.  It helps bind calcium-modulated proteins (calmodulin, for short) to muscle receptors. 

To summarize, choline helps keep minerals like calcium bioavailable so the muscle can readily use it when it needs to contract.  

Choline’s underappreciated role in muscle contraction is outlined by a study referenced where supplementation of choline significantly reduced CPK levels in a group of patients.  CPK (creatine phosphokinase) is a marker of muscle tissue damage.  It is often elevated in people who had a heart attack but also in athletes after particularly intense exercise.  (marathon runners, for example). 

Clinically, the implications are clear.   In patients with skeletal muscle-related issues – whether muscle cramping in athletes, general muscle soreness in others, or something else – determining choline status may be worthwhile.

SpectraCell Laboratories measures choline + over 30 nutrients (including calcium and magnesium) that play a role in exercise physiology. 


Source:  (Nutrients, July 202)

LINK to FREE FULL TEXT Choline: An Essential Nutrient for Skeletal Muscle

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