Is choline a nootropic, or just a protein supplement for body builders and other health nuts?
Well, we know that choline is a basic building block used in the construction of cell membranes, including our brain cells.
It’s also very common. Most people get enough of it just by eating a balanced diet. In fact, the human body can make choline if provided with the right raw materials.
So if it’s so readily available, why bother supplementing with it? That’s a fair question.
Research has revealed that having extra choline in your diet can improve your physical health, and your mental capacities.
That being said, lets find out why.
Choline for Brain Health – How does it Help?
Choline is used to synthesize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine once it crosses the blood-brain barrier.
That last bit is the part I want to focus on in this article.
Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter ever discovered, and it plays numerous key functions in the brain.
There are several nootropic supplements that I have recommended on this site that have choline added to them in order to enhance cognitive function.
Acetylcholine occupies the synapses in order to transfer signals from the brain to the body.
It plays a part in pain responses, and regulates REM sleep activities.
Furthermore, we know that memory and learning ability are closely associated to acetylcholine levels, and supplementing with choline can help improve our mental capacities.
Studies have also shown that people with Alzheimer’s do not have enough of the enzyme needed to convert choline to acetylcholine.
So now that we know that supplementing with choline is good for cognition, are there any other concerns we should take into account?
Choline Supplements – What’s the Best Approach?
First of all, you need to know that there are several different forms of choline that can be used for supplementation.
Certain foods are rich in choline if you just want to increase your intake naturally, like eggs, fish, and liver.
However, most people will see best results by taking a choline supplement that can cross the blood-brain barrier.
There are 3 forms of choline I’d like to mention that are commonly used to improve our health:
- Choline Bitartrate – approximately 40% choline by weight. Poorly absorbed. Not recommended.
- Alpha-GPC – approximately 40% choline by weight. Passes blood-brain barrier reasonably well. Recommended.
- CDP Choline/Citicholine – approximately 18% Choline by weight. Best bioavailability. Recommended.
Choline bitartrate gets used in a lot of supplements because it’s cheap to produce, and provides the highest density of choline by weight.
However, so little of the choline in choline bitartrate can cross the blood-brain barrier, that it doesn’t do much to enhance cognition.
Alpha-GPC has almost as much choline in it as choline bitartrate, but it does cross the blood-brain barrier effectively.
Alpha-GPC is therefore considered a decent nootropic supplement.
Alpha-GPC also encourages muscle formation when training, and can improve the ability of muscles to produce explosive power.
Alpha-GPC is a very desirable choline source for those that want to enhance cognition and athletic performance at the same time.
CDP-Choline, also known as Citicoline, is only 18% Choline by weight.
Ironically though, CDP-Choline is regarded as the best choline source if your only goal is to enhance your mental capacities.
CDP-Choline not only provides choline, but also provides cytidine; a precursor to uridine.
Uridine encourages the regrowth of receptors at the synapses, thereby improving how efficiently neurons are able to transmit signals.
Uridine also facilitates ATP processes, resulting in an increase in overall brain activity.
All of these qualities together make CDP-Choline a highly effective micronutrient capable of enhancing performance and brain health at the same time.
In fact, CDP-Choline has been shown to be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia.
The density of dopamine receptors increases with CDP-Choline supplementation, resulting in improved attention and memory capacity.
At least 13 clinical trials have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of CDP-Choline to treat stroke victims.
The results have been less than conclusive, but at least some benefit has been observed in most cases.
What about Choline Supplement Combinations?
The effectiveness of choline supplements has been found to be enhanced when they are taken together with certain other nootropics.
CDP-Choline performs better when take together with bacopa monnieri, for example.
Bacopa blocks the activity of the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine in the brain, thereby increasing its’ effectiveness.
This synergistic effect results in much greater clarity, focused attention, memory, and learning capacity.
CBD oil has also been found to have neuroprotective properties very similar to those of bacopa, mainly by minimizing the damage stress and anxiety can inflict on the brain.
Neuro-hackers are already using CBD oil along with their favorite nootropic stacks in order to enhance their overall benefits.
There are even supplements that have combined CDP-Choline with Alpha-GPC in order to ‘get the best of both worlds’, so to speak.
CDP-Choline can increase the density of mitochondria in brain cells, thereby providing more brain energy. This is a benefit that Alpha-GPC lacks.
However, Alpha-GPC can provide improved athletic performance, and tends to meter out choline in a more steady manner than CDP-Choline.
Neuro-hackers also pair choline supplements with adaptogens sometimes to achieve a different kind of synergy.
Essentially, the choline supplement acts as the ‘offense’, increasing acetylcholine levels and enhancing cognitive performance.
Meanwhile, the adaptogen protects the brain from stress hormones like cortisol, preventing damage to the central nervous system.
The perfect ‘defense’.
Choline Dosage – Recommendations for Best Results
Choline is available either as a powder or in capsule form.
Choline supplements will have their own dosage recommendations, depending on the type. This is a basic guide:
Alpha-GPC – 400-1,000 mg/day to enhance cognitive performance
– 800-1,000 mg/day to improve athletic performance
– 1,200 mg/day to manage degenerative neurological disorders
CDP-Choline – 250-500 mg/day in total.
The maximum daily dosage for CDP-Choline should be 500 mg, and it would be preferable to split it up into 2 doses.
One in the morning, and the second in the afternoon.
Choline Side Effects – How Safe is it?
Choline is generally well tolerated by most users because it’s a naturally occurring substance; both in food and in our bodies.
However, it is still possible to experience some toxicity if you consistently take too much choline in supplement form.
Common symptoms include headaches, insomnia, diarrhea, changes in blood pressure, nausea, or blurred vision.
If you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking your choline supplement, and go talk to your doctor.
There may be an interaction with a medication you’re not aware of, or you may be more sensitive to choline.
These issues are rare, but not unheard of, so monitor yourself carefully when first starting a new supplementation regime.
Choline Benefits – Final Comments
So we’ve established that choline supplementation improves cognition, helps with neurological disorders, and enhances athletic performance.
Generally speaking, choline supplementation strengthens cell membrane integrity, increases nerve cell growth, and enhances brain energy levels.
So is choline a nootropic? Yeah, I think it makes the grade.
It has so many advantages to offer for cognitive function, how could it not be?
Furthermore, when combined with a neuroprotective agent, choline supplements can be particularly effective at enhancing brain function.
Several premium nootropic stacks are purposely engineered to take advantage of this synergistic relationship.
This all sounds very exciting, but I wanted to temper your expectations a little.
I take Mind Lab Pro to manage my ADD, and it helps me stay on task at work and in my everyday life.
However, you won’t find me in my basement plotting to take over the World any time soon.
The kind of cognitive enhancement we saw in the movie ‘Limitless’ has yet to be achieved with nootropics.
That was a fantasy.
In a like fashion, Choline supplements have not been found to be a cure-all for neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Stroke victims have seen some health benefits with Choline supplementation, but the results have been inconsistent.
Athletes can also see some improvements in building mass and performance.
Alpha-GPC has been shown to be great for improving cognition and generating explosive power at the same time, but CDP-Choline is the best form to use as a nootropic.
If you think you fall into one of the above categories, you can always find a good choline supplement online, or at your local health food store.
You could also check out DoubleWood. They stock Alpha-GPC and CDP Choline, and their prices are reasonable.
Just go to the home page of this site, and on the right hand side, there’s a small banner ad for DoubleWood.
Click on it, and it’ll take you to their online store. You can figure out the rest on your own.
Well, I think that’s all I have for you concerning the benefits of choline supplementation.
In my next article, I’ll be looking at how L-Theanine can help with ‘Social Anxiety’, a pretty serious disorder that affects a lot of people.
See you there!