Citicoline, also known as CDP-Choline or, in a branded form, Cognizin, is a widely-used nootropic. It is a common ingredient in high quality brain supplements, as well as some sports supplements.
According to supplement manufacturers, citicoline is a potent nootropic. They claim that it rapidly heightens focus, improves working memory, and facilitates learning.
How much of this is true and how much is just marketing?
Is citicoline a good nootropic? What does citicoline actually do? What are the benefits of citicoline? Will citicoline cause side effects? Is the fuss around Cognizin justified? Let’s take a look at the science and find out.
What is citicoline?
Citicoline is a naturally-occuring nucleotide. It is found in human cells, especially in the brain and other organs.
The more formal name of Citicoline is Cytidine diphosphate-choline. The main reason people use citicoline is for the choline content. About 18% of Citicoline is choline, with the rest being cytidine and a diphosphate molecule.
How does citicoline work?
The choline in cytidine acts as a raw material for the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine and acetylcholine.
Phosphatidylcholine is a phospholipid needed for the construction and maintenance of brain cells. Without phsophatidylcholine, you can’t make new neurons.
Acetylcholine is the brain’s primary executive neurotransmitter. It is needed for most of the cognitive functions we look to enhance through nootropics – focus, memory function, reactions, information processing, and so on.
Citicoline benefits – The evidence
There is plenty of hard, scientific evidence showing that citicoline has neuroprotective properties.
Both in vivo and in vitro studies have found that citicoline is beneficial for protecting the brain against both acute and chronic neuro-degenerative diseases, including brain hypoxia, trauma, intracerebral haemorrhage, and differing types of toxicity.
Researchers believe that this effect is the result of citicoline’s effect on phospholipids. Supplementing with citicoline increases brain phospholipid levels. These phospholipids are used to maintain and create new brain cell structures.
Other studies clearly show that citicoline is effective for improving short to medium term cognitive performance. You don’t have to look very hard to find robust clinical trials in which participants displayed marked improvement in cognitive tests after taking 150-300mg of citicoline.
Is citicoline the best choline source?
In our opinion, citicoline is easily the best source of choline if your goal is cognitive enhancement.
Citicoline is significantly more efficient at crossing the blood-brain barrier than simple choline, and it is more efficient than other forms of choline like choline bitartrate.
While the choline content of Alpha-GPC is actually higher than citioline’s choline content, we still think this is the best choice for total cognitive enhancement.
The cytidine content of choline is an important part of the molecule. It is a precursor to RNA; a molecule needed for the coding and expression of genes.
On top of that, the studies showing improvements in mental performance and neuroprotection from citicoline vastly outnumber the studies showing the same benefits from other choline sources.