Special Component Databases – Choline, Fluoride, Iodine, Purines, and Other Compounds


ODS has supported the development of several food composition databases. These databases are valuable tools for epidemiologic research characterizing the nutrient status of populations. For example, coupled with dietary intake data from surveys such as the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), food composition values allow scientists to estimate total nutrient intakes, identify major contributing sources of nutrients, and subsequently, to develop dietary guidance for various groups. These include infants, children, and pregnant and lactating women, as well as people who follow certain eating patterns such as a vegetarian or vegan diet. Databases of food constituents are also used in experimental research for understanding nutrient metabolism as well as in clinical nutrition practice for assessing diets of individuals and developing guidance for their personal situations.


Choline is an essential nutrient that the body needs to synthesize phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, two major phospholipids vital for cell membranes. Humans can produce choline in the liver, but the amount that the body naturally synthesizes is not sufficient to meet physiological needs. Thus, humans must obtain some choline from foods, yet many people in the United States consume insufficient amounts.


Fluoride is an essential nutrient that helps prevent tooth decay and stimulate new bone formation. Only trace amounts of fluoride are naturally present in most foods. Therefore, most of the fluoride that people consume comes from fluoridated water, foods and beverages prepared with fluoridated water, toothpaste and other dental products that contain fluoride. In addition, dietary supplements containing fluoride may be recommended for some infants and children whose water supply contains little or no fluoride. These supplements are often a liquid drop or chewable tablet/gummy formulation containing a multivitamin or multivitamin/mineral blend along with the fluoride.


Iodine is an essential nutrient and a component of thyroid hormone. The iodine status (i.e., adequacy or deficiency) of populations and individuals varies with geography, iodine content of the food supply, and with the use of iodized salt and dietary supplements. Although iodine deficiency is rare in the United States and Canada, it can have serious effects. For example, iodine deficiency can cause birth defects in newborns, lower-than-average IQ in infants and children, and decreased ability to work and think clearly in adults.

ODS originally developed its Iodine Initiative in 2011 in response to concerns that some pregnant women in the United States might have inadequate iodine intakes at a time of high physiologic demand. The Iodine Initiative webpage has additional details about funding opportunities, iodine resources, conference reports, and other presentations and publications associated with the initiative.


Purines are chemical compounds that form nucleotides, such as adenosine triphosphate and guanosine triphosphate. They are also components of nucleic acids, such as DNA and RNA. Purines function as metabolic signals within the body, provide energy and help regulate enzymatic activity.

Purines are present in many foods, particularly animal-source foods. A diet high in purines, as well as other factors, can raise levels of uric acid. This, in turn, can produce uric acid crystals that build up in joints and cause gout which is a serious form of arthritis. A “western” diet and lifestyle, and the resulting obesity epidemic, are often associated with increased prevalence of gout.

  • Purine Content of Foods and Alcoholic Beverages: To help manage gout and hyperuricemia, data are needed on purine amounts in foods. To address this data gap, ODS has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to compile published data for four purine bases – adenine, guanine, hypoxanthine, and xanthine – in food and alcoholic beverages reported in fourteen studies internationally. This dataset is a provisional release and includes four tables presenting purine values in over 370 foods and 15 alcoholic beverages. Additional data for other foods and beverages, particularly from the U.S. food supply, as well as for selected dietary supplements, will be added in future releases:
  • Related Publications and Presentations
    Wu B, Roseland JM, Haytowitz DB, Pehrsson PR, Ershow AG. Availability and quality of published data on the purine content of foods, alcoholic beverages, and dietary supplements. J Food Comp Anal. December 2019. 84:103281. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfca.2019.103281external link disclaimer

Other Food Constituent Databases from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, with support from ODS, has developed other food constituent databases, including:

ODS is also supporting the development of databases for glucosinolates, nitrates, and nitrites that will be available in the future.