If you are planning to supplement with nootropics, especially cholinergics such as the racetam family, you should be on good terms with choline. What is choline? What types of choline sources are available and what are the differences between the different forms of choline are the questions we will attempt to answer here. Choline is an essential brain food. You’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat,” well when it comes to the brain this is especially true. Our brain’s gray matter is composed primarily of phosphatidyl choline and phosphatidyl serine.
As the control center of your entire nervous system (and as a result your whole body) the brain is one of the most energy demanding of all organ systems. Choline, in addition to making up a bulk of the brain’s mass itself is also a necessary site a long time ago. He won’t answer messages component for biosynthesis of acetylcholine, the primary learning, memory and movement neurotransmitter.
Somewhere around 92% of people are already deficient in choline in their diet. Attending to your diet and exercise is the first key to maintaining a good baseline to improve upon. So in addition to healthy, well balanced diet, some source of supplemental choline may be necessary. This is especially true if you’re planning on using cholinergics like the racetams.
Choline is an essential nutrient for both body and brain. It is a lipidinous compound very closely related to the B vitamin complex. Sometimes it is even classed as a B vitamin. Choline not only feeds the brain, but the body. Choline deficiencies can affect a wide class of disorders from depression to asthma, even hepatitis or cancer. As a result, choline is something you should make sure to keep well-stocked in your noots cabinet and body and brain.
What Is Choline?
Choline is a nutrient that is essential to the body, brain and liver in the human body. Though it was discovered in 1862, it wasn’t until 1998 that it was finally classified as an essential nutrient. Choline is technically a micro-nutrient, as opposed to a true vitamin. Choline is important to the nervous system as well as being a precursor to acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is bio-synthesized from acetic acid and choline. Acetic acid, by the way, distilled to 5% or so is known as white vinegar. Think about that next time you have some malt vinegar with your fish. Choline, as a nervine compound, is necessary to most aspects of cognition from learning and memory to concentration.
Due to the fact that choline is water soluble, it does not build up and store in your fat cells like some nutrients so it’s important to maintain adequate levels of choline. Choline has even been shown to suppress inflammation and oxidative stress associated with asthma. Choline deficiencies can exacerbate liver conditions and choline is recommended in some cases to prevent and treat disorders like Tourette’s, cerebellar ataxia and even schizophrenia. In addition to all this, it may also improve energy and endurance and assist with building lean muscle mass. Choline is perhaps most vital in the pre-natal and developmental stages as well as during old age to help prevent or forestall cognitive decline, but it’s important at any age. The American Psychological Association considers choline a potentially therapeutic compound that may be helpful for those dealing with not only memory disorders but depression and Parkinsons. Some studies have even shown that adequate choline intake may improve mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.
Where Does Choline Come From?
Your body can endogenously produce some choline in the liver, but not enough to meet the recommended daily adequate intake of 425-550 mg daily. Lecithin, found in eggs, soy and some other food products is one of the most basic forms of choline. Liver, eggs, salmon, shrimp, clams, oysters, beef, cauliflower, tofu, soy, almonds, mushrooms, artichokes, collard greens and peanuts are excellent dietary sources of choline. Not all choline sources (dietary or supplemental) are created equally though. Let’s explore a few of the major choline supplement types and their relative differences.
Choline Bitartate and Choline Citrate: The basic choline donors
Choline bitartate and choline citrate are the cheapest, basic choline donors. Choline bitartate has a strong fishy scent (not surprising considering fish are one of the richest dietary choline sources available). These basic forms of choline are sufficient for supplementation but have no stand-alone nootropic effects of their own unless you’re already deficient. Choline deficiency while supplementing racetams can result in headaches and brain fog which are the last thing a bio-hacker seeking cognitive improvement wants to run into. In the recommended dosage, side effects are rare and no more serious generally than some gastric disturbance (upset stomach, gas pains, etc.) which may possibly be lessened by taking your choline with a meal.
- Pros: the cheapest of the choline donors
- Cons: no nootropic effects on it’s own apart unless you are deficient, possibility of headaches or stomach upset especially if taken on an empty stomach or dosed too high
- Typical dose: 500-2000 mg
CDP-Choline or Citicoline: The energizing and mood boosting choline source
Citicoline, also known as cytidisine phosphocholine or CDP choline, is not only a cholinergic but a dopaminergic as well. Dopaminergics may be energizing and mood lifting as well. Dopamine is the pleasure neurotransmitter but it is also very closely tied to the reward feedback cycles, focus, vigilance and wakefulness. Citicoline is not only a more potent choline donor milligram for milligram compared to choline bitartate or citrate, but has some stand-alone nootropic properties as well.
- Pros: has high bioavailability; stand-alone nootropic benefit; mood lifting and energizing; high synergy with several nootropics
- Cons: contains less choline by weight than Alpha GPC; is not technically classified as a cholinergic and has to be metabolized into choline; some minor side effects have been reported such as jitteriness may occur in sensitve individuals.
- Typical dose: 250-750 mg
Alpha GPC, or Alpha glycerophosphate, is one of the more expensive of the choline sources, but it’s also one of the fastest acting and suitable for cognitive enhancement. It’s highly bioavailable due to being readily able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Alpha GPC is not only helpful for brain builder, but also for body builders. Increased energy and output and even HGH (Human Growth Hormone) secretion have been associated with its use. Be advised, 100% Alpha GPC is highly lipidinous and will turn to an oily mess if left to oxidize. That said, it’s slightly sweet tasting (always a plus for supplements) and makes an excellent addition to coffee. Try a couple hundred milligrams of theanine and few hundred milligrams of Alpha GPC in place of cream and sugar, sometime and see what I mean.
Non-choline Acetylcholine Precursors
Though Centrophenoxine isn’t actually a choline source, it acts in a similar way as far as improving the endogenous production of acetylcholine. Centrophenoxine increases acetylcholine production as well as improving the brain’s glucose and oxygen consumption. This can lead to improved mood, cognition and focus. In addition to this it is a potent brain antioxidant and, like piracetam, can break down lipofuscin. Lipofuscin is an endogenous neurotoxin associated with both age related cognitive decline and severe alcoholism. It’s actually a fat soluble, synthetic derivate of Dimethylaminoethanol or, DMAE (not to be confused with DMAA or DHEA), it is metabolized in the liver and is classed as a cholinergic.
Centrophenoxine increases the synthesis of acetylcholine, which makes it a natural pairing with racetams or any nootropics draw heavily on choline stores. It also acts as a brain energizer by increasing the absorption of both oxygen and glucose, which in turn enhances mood, general cognition, and clarity of thought. Centrophenoxine has also been shown to act as a potent antioxidant, flushing waste material out of brain cells and even breaking down the buildup of lipofuscin, an age-related toxin that adversely effect memory and cognition.
Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR, Acetylcarnitine, ALC) is similar to centrophenoxine in several ways. Though it’s not a choline source itself, it can act alongside choline to support healthy acetylcholine production in the brain. It’s closely structurally related to Carnitine, but the acetylated form of carnitine is more of a cognitive enhancer than a physical enhancer. It’s highly bioavailable due to being readily absorbed across the blood-brain barrier (a mesh that protects the blood heading to the brain). Also, like centrophenoxine, Al-Car is known as a potent brain antioxidant. One of its mechanisms of actions is as a transport agent of fatty acids that provide energy for the body. Al-Car has been used by athletes, dieters as well as people interested in cognitive maintenance and enhancement.
- Pros: also neuroprotective, antioxidant, energy enhancing, potential fat burner; well tolerated and few side effects
- Cons: used for extended periods daily may lower levels of GABA (the primary neuroinhibitory/calming neurotransmitter).
- Typical dose: 500-2500mg
Remember, even though choline is an essential nutrient, you should always stay in the proper dosage. If you experience mood imbalance, severe gastric distress or other issues, discontinue your supplement and consult with your primary care practitioner.