Choline for adrenaline

Ciara is driving home from school, listening to her favorite music, when a dog darts into the street in front of her car. She manages to swerve to avoid hitting the dog. As she continues on her way she notices her heart is racing, she has “goose-bumps” and her hands are sweaty.

When the dog darted in front of Clara’s car, her body went through a sympathetic “fight-or-flight” response, which is an inborn, automatic effect that can occur under conditions of acute stress.(1&2) The effects may have also included pupils dilating, airways to her lungs dilating, blood vessels to her kidneys and gastrointestinal tract constricting, blood vessels involved in exercise to fight off danger dilating, release of glucose by the liver, liver cells performing glycogenolysis.(1p537)

The effect is triggered by acetylcholine released from sympathetic nerves, which can activate many tissues simultaneously.(1p537 & 2) A release of adrenaline and norepinephrin from the medulla of the adrenals facilitate the intense physical effects.(2) We share this response with many other animals.(2)

Gives you a new reason to make sure you get the choline you need daily for synthesis of acetylcholine.


1. Tortora, GJ & Derrickson, B. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, 11th ed; 2006. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
2. Psychologist World. Stress: The fight or flight response. Available at: fightflight.php. Accessed on Oct. 25, 2008.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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