Choline is a word we hear quite commonly when talking about nootropics. Outside of this, we do not hear a lot about choline. This is unfortunate because a lot of people do not get enough choline and this can have negative effects on cognition.
Choline used to be considered a member of the b-vitamin family due to its close similarities in structure. Like other members of the essential b-vitamin class, choline also plays a large role in cognition. Unlike the b-vitamins however, choline is often deficient especially in those who don’t get enough quality nutrition for animal products (vegans, elderly).
Cholines’ Function in the Human Body
Cholines’ main function is to convert into acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is vastly important in cognition and having a depleted supply has negative consequences on the brain. Therefore, not having enough choline in the body may negatively impact acetylcholine levels.
Being deficient in choline can have some negative consequences to cognition. The amount of recommended choline needed to be healthy increases through childhood and remains high throughout adulthood. Not meeting these levels can directly impact your health. Some people are more at risk of being deficient and the number is much higher than most may think (even in western culture). The side effects of choline deficiency may vary depending on the level of severity. Below are some of the most common choline deficiency signs:
- Trouble Remembering
Types of Choline Supplements
Not all choline is created equal. When nootropic users refer to choline, they are often referring to choline supplements. In this case, choline means some type of supplement which has an end result of higher acetylcholine levels. Just how the supplement converts in the process to acetylcholine may differ. This differing in process can greatly impact the efficiency of acetylcholine conversion. It is important to remember the difference between choline and acetylcholine as choline itself plays a number of other important functions within the body.
Choline in Food
Choline can be obtained naturally through food. The recommended amount will differ based on age and sex. The chart below will show the needed amount of choline recommended based on age and sex. If you don’t think that you meet these requirements through food alone, supplementation may be a good option.
Phosphatidylcholine is extracted from certain food sources rich in choline and turned into a purified supplement. It is the most prominent type of choline is most foods. Phosphatidylcholine coverts into choline within the body however it is only about 13% choline based on weight. For this reason, it is one of the least efficient choline supplements for acetylcholine conversion based of weight.
Lecithin is another type of common choline supplement. It can be derived from either soy of egg however soy lecithin is the most common form. Lecithin is pretty good at converting into choline however there are still much more efficient supplements out there.
Choline can come in pure form. It is a water soluble nutrient that can become available in many different forms. The nutrient is available in a number of salt forms. One of the most common types of salt forms is choline bitatrate and this is the most used by nootropics users. Choline bitatrate is popular because it is effective, cheap and highly available. Regardless, there are still even better “choline” sources as nootropics.
Citicoline (CDP Choline)
Citicoline is highly sought after as a nootropic. Unlike other choline sources, it is considered to be a highly efficient acetylcholine source and supposed nootropic. It is an intermediate between natural phosphatidylcholine and choline. This property changes how it is metabolized and used within the body. Citicoline converts into choline in the GI tract and then back into citicoline once in crosses the blood brain barrier.
Citicoline helps to free up choline in the brain to be synthesized into acetylcholine. It is better than pure choline and phosphatidylcholine at converting into acetylcholine. Citicoline also helps to replenish depleted phospholipid levels.
Alpha GPC (GPC Choline)
Alpha GPC is another popular nootropic supplement for nootropic users. Like citicoline, it also is highly nootropic on its own. It is more expensive than other choline supplements and can be comparable to citicoline in nootropic qualities.
Alpha GPC differs from citicoline and is not an intermediate between choline. The supplement works to increase acetylcholine levels during the breakdown. When the body breaks down alpha gpc, it creates acetylcholine. In this case, alpha gpc is one of the closest supplements one can take to acetylcholine (pure acetylcholine cannot cross the blood-brain-barrier).