Choline is an essential nutrient for healthy metabolic functioning. Now that the FDA has authorized a nutrient content claim for choline, there is more interest in fortification with this key nutrient. Choline microencapsulation allows manufacturers to formulate items with choline levels higher than those required to make nutrient claims, yet still retain important finished product characteristics.

Balchem Encapsulates, Slate Hill, N.Y., offers tailored choline microencapsulation for optimal release in the digestive system. Balchem's proprietary microencapsulation technology protects choline so that it is a free-flowing, easy-to-handle powder, and also masks choline's taste and odor.

“Choline is a very hygroscopic ingredient, plus it has a fishy taste and odor. Previously, it was used in small amounts so the problems of odor and taste were not as noticeable,” says Lucien Hernandez, business manager for choline nutrients. “If you put in 110mg of choline per serving, it would be a problem.”

Up until now, choline has been widely used to fortify animal feeds and adult nutrition products, and is mandated by the FDA for use in baby formula. Also referred to as vitamin B4, it is needed for the structural integrity of cell membranes, methyl metabolism, cholinergic neurotransmission, transmembrane signaling, lipid cholesterol transport and metabolism, among other things. Choline is integral in: controlling fat and cholesterol buildup in the body; regulating the kidneys, liver and gallbladder; and increasing the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps the brain store and recall information. It also plays a key role in fetal brain development.

During exposure to ambient air, raw choline chloride absorbs water, while encapsulated choline does not. After 8 hours, the encapsulated choline is a free-flowing powder, and the deliquescent choline chloride has become a liquid.
According to FDA's nutrient content claim, a product labeled “a good source of choline” must contain at least 55mg per serving, and a product considered “an excellent source of choline” must contain at least 110mg per serving.

Balchem became the world's leading manufacturer of human-grade choline with its June 2001 acquisition of certain assets of DCV, Inc. and its affiliate, DuCoa L.P. The company's choline is the only USP-grade manufactured today.

Microencapsulation systems must be custom designed for each product application because coatings must be tailored to withstand various food systems and processes. Coatings protect the choline during mixing, heating and product storage, and they release the element when the product is consumed. Possible release mechanisms are moisture, acidity, and heat.

“We have to consider moisture, processing conditions and shelf life,” says Vernetta Dally, applications manager. “We have successfully incorporated choline into nutrient bars, taffy chews and cookies. Other foods that are good candidates for choline fortification are teething biscuits and cereals.” The most suitable type of beverage is a shake, to which milk or water is added. The particles of encapsulated choline would be suspended in the drink.

For more information:
Balchem Customer Service at 800-641-2001 (U.S.) or 845-355-5372 (overseas)
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