First ever study of the effect of choline and betaine intake on Lung Cancer in smokers

Choline and betaine intake could reduce the chances of lung cancer in the smokers.

This research has been published online in the journal PLoS ONE.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and smoking is among the main causes of lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in both men and women in US.

“Smoking cessation is the best way to reduce lung cancer risk in smokers.” Olga Y Gorlova, Associate Professor Associate Professor, Epidemiology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and senior author of the paper, told

Foods rich in choline and/or betaine
Foods rich in choline and/or betaine (Credit:

According to the researchers, this is the first study identifying the protective effect of choline and betaine against lung cancer in smokers. However, no relation of betaine intake and the lung cancer in non-smokers has been found.

Choline is a nutritional ingredient that is present in egg yolks, beef, chicken, liver and soybeans. Choline is converted into betaine in the body. Choline is an important component of cell membrane and is found to be involved in brain development and cognitive functions. Betaine is commonly found in animal foods especially seafood, and plant foods such as wheat bran and spinach. Betaine is important in maintaining the cell volume and protecting the cells and proteins from environmental stresses such as increased temperature.

Researchers are of the opinion that higher betaine intake might decrease the adverse effects of smoking. Although both choline and betaine showed protective effects against lung cancer, current smokers can get more benefits from betaine intake against lung cancer.

Researchers noted that they would work on the amount of these ingredients against the chances of lung cancer.

“This would be a very important study but it should employ a prospective design and we would be happy to work on this if we can establish collaboration with an appropriate study.” She added.

These “findings call for further confirmatory studies as this study only dealt with choline and betaine occurring naturally in foods. While foods rich in these ingredients might be beneficial, no comment can be made on the effects of choline or betaine from dietary supplements,” she added.


Ying, J., Rahbar, M., Hallman, D., Hernandez, L., Spitz, M., Forman, M., & Gorlova, O. (2013). Associations between Dietary Intake of Choline and Betaine and Lung Cancer Risk PLoS ONE, 8 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054561

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