By Lisa Cantkier
Although choline may not be one of the most glamorous or popular topics in the media today with respect to health and wellness, the fact is, it is a nutrient that is imperative for overall health and you should not assume you are getting enough of it. Commonly referred to as an important macronutrient, choline supports your body in much the same way as the vital B-vitamins. Choline is required for your liver and nerve functioning, muscle movement, energy, and a healthy metabolism. Moreover, it is essential for your brain’s normal development, function and health.
Choline is present in foods that naturally contain certain fats, thus it is found in many animal products, such as beef, liver, salmon, and eggs. You need to get enough choline (not often an easy feat from diet alone) in order to help support a slew of systems throughout your body, including your digestive, endocrine, nervous, and reproductive systems. Choline also helps your body form DNA and cell structures, and maintain healthy liver function. In fact, without an adequate intake of choline, you could become at risk of chronic liver damage and even liver failure.
Choline’s Effect on Memory and Brain Function
One of choline’s key benefits is its ability to help keep your mind cognitively sharp as you age. Due to its involvement with cell membranes and neurotransmitters, choline helps preserve your memory and prevent dementia, memory loss and other types of cognitive decline as you get older. Choline helps your brain maintain its “elasticity” by supporting acetylcholine levels, which decline as you age. Low levels of acetylcholine may lead to cognitive decline and related cognitive conditions - patients with Alzheimer’s disease sometimes show low levels of acetylcholine.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), choline is used to treat a number of diseases linked to the central nervous system and mental health, including depression, memory loss, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, Huntington's chorea, Tourette's disease, a brain disorder called cerebellar ataxia, different types of seizures, and even schizophrenia.
Are you Deficient in Choline?
Depending on your genetic makeup, physiology and whether you have a digestive disorder, you might not be able to absorb choline optimally, which can put you at risk of choline deficiency. Also, since it is found in many animal products, vegans and vegetarians may eventually become at risk of choline deficiency. Signs and symptoms of choline deficiency include, but are not limited to: cognitive decline, memory loss, learning disabilities, fatigue, mood changes, muscle aches, and/or nerve damage.
CDP-Choline is the Best Choline Source For Cognitive Benefits
Not all sources of choline are the same. Choline itself is the “basic” form (also referred to as “basic choline”) and is usually purchased as “bitartrate.” Basic choline is just that—the most “basic” and inexpensive form of choline. It is far less expensive than CDP-choline and as a result, it is used much more often in various supplements. Basic choline does not effectively cross the blood-brain barrier and doesn’t reliably increase neural (brain) concentrations of choline. While the basic form of choline does have some benefits to your liver and may help with methylation, its benefits are definitely lacking when it comes to helping your brain.
Another basic form of choline is “choline citrate.” This form can have about 50% more choline content than choline bitartrate and may have some other health benefits, such as helping to prevent fatty deposits from accumulating in the liver. Unfortunately, it is also ineffective at crossing the blood-brain barrier or increasing choline concentrations in the brain.
CDP-choline provides the body with usable choline and can increase neural concentrations of choline better than either form of basic choline. CDP-choline is able to be converted to both choline and uridine, thereby allowing you to benefit from both cognitive enhancing molecules which have been shown to help protect the brain from damage and may have a positive effect on learning. CDP-choline supplementation, as opposed to basic choline, can protect against the development of memory deficits, and long term CDP-choline supplementation has been shown to be strongly associated with the prevention of memory impairment.
What the Research Says: CDP-Choline Supports Memory and Ability to Focus
Research has shown that CDP-choline offers numerous neuroprotective benefits, as well as supporting your brain’s ability to focus. In one research study, 16 healthy adults were administered CDP-choline for 6 weeks at doses of 500mg to 2000mg. The researchers found that CDP-choline supplementation led to beneficial changes in phosphate metabolism and cell membrane turnover in the frontal lobes of the brains of the research participants. Interestingly, the degree of these beneficial changes was larger in the research participants who took the 500mg dose, compared to those that took the 2000mg dose.
The research findings on the neuroprotective of CDP-choline are similar to the results of other studies that have looked at the clinical effects of CDP-choline supplementation. For example, a research study of 60 adult women found that a daily dosage of 250mg or 500mg of CDP-choline significantly improved the participants’ focus. In addition to providing benefits to the brain in middle aged adults, there is also research that shows CDP-choline provides benefits to the brain in older and aging adults. One study showed that dosages of 500mg to 1000mg of CDP-choline improved memory performance in older adults with memory deficits (this research, however, does not apply to those with Alzheimer’s disease).
There is no doubt that getting an adequate amount of choline is very important to your overall health, and the relationship between CDP-choline specifically and the benefits to brain health are significant.
Structure image from: CSID:18505140, http://www.chemspider.com/Chemical-Structure.18505140.html (accessed 22:45, Aug 30, 2017)