Searching for the best choline supplement? You’ve found the right place.
Choline is a powerful nutrient that plays a massive role in cognitive performance, DNA synthesis and cell health. And unfortunately, most people don’t get enough choline in their diets.
Additionally, choline is gaining popularity with nootropics users for the many brain-boosting benefits it provides — like increasing focus, memory and reaction time.
Read on to learn more about choline and the best choline supplements that we recommend.
Click here to order our top recommended Choline supplement!
What Is Choline?
Choline is a chemical found in foods that was only recently named an essential nutrient in the United States. Until 1998, researchers knew it was important, but had not deemed it essential .
The unique thing about choline is that it’s neither a vitamin nor a mineral; rather, it’s a compound that’s found in the cell membranes of both animals and plants. While your body can make choline on its own, it doesn’t make enough to support all of the roles that choline plays.
Choline is a key part of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which facilitates communication between your nervous system and your body. It has also been shown to help to manage cholesterol and keep it from building up in your liver.
Your body uses choline to manufacture citicoline, a precursor to a building block of DNA called uridine . And finally, choline is necessary to make phosphatidylcholine and other phospholipids. These compounds comprise the cell membranes of every cell in your body and help to manage the flow of various compounds and chemicals in and out of the cell — an extremely important job .
The best foods high in choline are animal products, particularly beef liver and eggs. However, there are some plant-based choline foods too, like soybeans and potatoes .
Still though, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most people actually don’t get enough choline in their diets to fully complement the choline that’s naturally produced by the body . Fortunately, there are several supplemental forms available to help people meet their choline needs. They are :
- Choline bitartrate: This is the most common and least expensive type of choline. It is 40% choline, but not particularly well-absorbed or used by the body.
- Phosphatidylcholine: This is the type of choline that’s usually found in foods, but you can purchase it in supplemental form also.
- Alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine (alpha-GPC): This supplement is made of 40% choline and is a popular choice because it’s able to cross the blood brain barrier, making it a very potent form .
- Cytidine diphosphate-choline (CDP choline or citicoline): Citicoline is 18% choline and the precursor to uridine, one of the basic components of DNA. Citicoline has some convincing scientific evidence to back its nootropic (brain-enhancing) benefits [2, 6].
- Choline chloride: Although you can purchase choline chloride supplements online, they’re not really a popular choice for humans. Choline chloride is mostly used in animal feed.
Benefits of a Choline Supplement
If you’re sold on the importance of choline and want to experience some of its benefits for yourself (especially if you know you’re not getting enough through your diet), then choline supplementation may be a good choice for you. Choline supplementation offers several well-documented benefits:
- Improved brain function: Studies show that choline (citicoline, in particular) can reduce dementia risk, and promote better cognition, memory, speaking ability, attention and reaction times, while lowering impulsivity. These benefits are why many people consider choline supplements nootropics in their own right [6, 7, 8].
- Raw material for neurotransmitter production: Your pool of dietary choline is one factor in how much acetylcholine you’re able to produce. Because acetylcholine is key for many body and brain functions (like muscle contraction, digestion, sweat gland function, mood and memory), it’s vital that you have enough choline to produce it [9, 10].
- Precursor to DNA building block: Choline is a key component of citicoline, a precursor to uridine, which is used in DNA synthesis — essentially meaning that proper DNA synthesis isn’t possible without adequate levels of choline .
- Cholesterol management and liver health: Choline helps to regulate cholesterol levels, with studies showing that choline deficiency can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease due to cholesterol accumulation — which may cause irreversible liver damage .
- Cell membrane integrity: Phospholipids, like phosphatidylcholine, make up the cell membrane and dictate which substances, enzymes, chemicals and nutrients are allowed into and out of the cell. In people who are truly choline deficient, tissue damage in the muscles and liver can occur in as little as two weeks due to the degradation of cells — which cannot maintain their integrity without choline .
Choline Side Effects
Based on the literature, choline does not present any major safety concerns. It has no known interactions with any other supplements or medications .
Some users may, however, experience side effects if they’re getting too much or too little choline in their diet, which we discuss in greater detail below.
If you experience new symptoms after starting a choline supplement, you may want to check the ingredients label to see if it may be one of the other ingredients affecting you. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to choose high-quality dietary supplements.
Even though adequate levels of choline are healthy and should cause no side effects, you should speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Best Choline Supplement | 2021 Edition
Ready to try a choline supplement for yourself? Here are our top picks of 2021 and why we chose them.
This citicoline from Jarrow Formulas is our top pick for two main reasons: Jarrow Formulas is a trusted name in providing high-quality dietary supplements, and it’s made with Cognizin® Citicoline—a trusted, pure, and potent citicoline source.
Each serving contains 250 mg of citicoline, including 45 grams of choline — remember, citicoline contains 18% choline. The 120-count bottle contains exactly 120 servings, or a 4 month supply — making it a great value for such a high quality product. However, you can take up to two servings per day if you’re seeking an extra boost in your cognition.
One thing you should note, however, is that this supplement contains a softgel capsule made from bovine gelatin—so it’s not appropriate for vegans.
Although choline bitartrate is not, in our opinion, the absolute best supplemental form of choline on the market, it’s very reasonably priced — making it way more accessible. And this choline bitartrate from Solgar is a fine choice, as it’s inexpensive, made with high quality ingredients and vegan-friendly.
It provides 350 mg of choline per serving, or 64% of the Daily Value (DV), and you can take up to three servings per day to provide a total of 1150 mg of choline.
In addition to being suitable for vegans, this choline supplement is free of gluten, soy, wheat, yeast, dairy, sweeteners, artificial flavors and preservatives — making it an ideal choice if you have strict food allergies or dietary preferences.
Another choline product that we highly recommend is the NOW Foods Choline & Inositol. Along with choline bitartrate, this supplement contains inositol, a type of sugar that’s utilized by the brain.
One study of 60 healthy adults found that taking an inositol-fortified arginine supplement improved mood, energy, focus, reaction time and accuracy among competitive video gamers, while decreasing anger levels . Inositol may also be useful for reducing symptoms of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder .
This supplement from NOW Foods provides 250 mg of choline per serving (45% of the DV), along with 250 mg of inositol. It’s free of all major allergens, gluten, and yeast, and is appropriate for vegetarians.
This supplement contains a blend of ingredients designed to help promote liver and brain health.
In addition to phosphatidylcholine, the phospholipid form of choline found in cell membranes, it contains alpha-linolenic acid, stearidonic acid and gamma-linolenic acid — three omega fatty acids that play roles in brain health, heart health and inflammation.
The phosphatidylcholine in this product is sourced from soy lecithin oil. One serving of 2 softgels provides 60 mg of choline.
This product contains soy and gelatin, so it should be avoided by vegans and by anyone who has a soy allergy.
This phosphatidylcholine supplement from Double Wood Supplements provides 420 mg of phosphatidylcholine per serving. The bottle contains 210 servings, making it an excellent value.
According to the label you can take up to two servings per day, providing a total of 840 mg of phosphatidylcholine.
Note, though, that this product contains soy (as the phosphatidylcholine is sourced from soy lecithin) and gelatin, so it’s not appropriate for vegans or people with soy allergies. However, it is gluten free.
Choline Supplements and Nootropics Users
In our experience, choline stacks superbly with nootropics — cognition enhancing drugs and supplements. Because of its far-reaching effects on cell health and neurotransmitter production, choline is itself considered a nootropic, particularly in the citicoline form.
And because choline is widely deemed safe, having no known reactions with other supplements or medications, many nootropics users pair it with their preferred nootropic to enhance the cognitive benefits.
In particular, choline is often used with the drug Modafinil, a prescription wakefulness agent that’s also a powerful nootropic that boosts energy, focus and motivation. Unfortunately, headaches are a common side effect of Modafinil that can turn people off of it completely.
According to many anecdotal reports from nootropics enthusiasts, taking choline may help reduce the severity of Modafinil headaches or make them vanish completely. However, there’s no evidence to back up this claim except for a single study from the 80s that noted a link between low levels of choline in the blood and cluster headaches .
Dietary choline is also necessary for acetylcholine production, and adequate levels of acetylcholine are necessary for proper brain function.
On that same note, several studies have noted a connection between choline supplementation and enhanced cognitive performance. Citicoline supplements appear to be the most effective, and researchers have found that citicoline supplementation can speed up reaction times, increase concentration and attention, and improve memory, retention and performance in cognitive tests [6, 7, 8].
If you’re a nootropics user, Citicoline in particular is certainly worth a look and may be a wise addition to your current nootropics routine if you’re looking to tweak and optimize it. Another option that shouldn’t be discounted is simply adding more foods with choline to your routine. This can be as easy as eating an extra egg or two each day.
Choline Dosage Guide
Since choline has only recently become acknowledged as a staple within the nutrition world, researchers are still uncertain as to exactly how much choline most people need to function optimally.
That’s why the National Academy of Medicine has established an Adequate Intake (AI) level for choline, a level that ensures most healthy people are getting enough to avoid becoming deficient in the nutrient .
The AI of choline for adults is:
- Male: 550 mg/day
- Female: 425 mg/day
- Pregnant: 450 mg/day
- Breastfeeding: 550 mg/day
These AIs are based on the estimated amount of choline that each gender and age group needs to prevent choline deficiency-related liver damage.
It’s important to note, though, that not everyone will have exactly the same choline needs. Some choline is produced naturally by the body, and your genetics will dictate how much you’re able to make on your own.
When dosing choline, you want to ensure you’re getting at least 100% of the AI for the nutrient between both food and supplements. If you’d rather meet your choline needs as naturally as possible, consider eating more choline foods like eggs each day.
If you’re concerned about the cholesterol in eggs, rest assured: emerging research suggests that their benefits vastly outweigh their downsides, and that they don’t contribute to the development of heart disease .
If you choose to supplement with choline, it’s best to stick to the dose recommended on the Supplement Facts label. Most choline supplements provide anywhere from 40% to 100% of the AI for choline. However, if you take citicoline you’ll need to do a simple calculation to determine how much actual choline you’re getting from the supplement. Citicoline is about 18% choline, so to determine how much is in a single dose of citicoline, use this equation :
[mg of citicoline per serving] x 0.18 = [mg of choline]
Although citicoline appears to provide the most nootropic benefits of any of the various types of choline supplements, the other types can still help you meet your choline needs.
How Can Choline Deficiency Harm You?
Although most people are not eating enough choline to support their endogenous production of the nutrient, true choline deficiency is fairly rare — although it can be very serious.
Because choline is a key component in the phospholipids lining the cell membranes, a deficiency of choline can almost immediately compromise the integrity of your cell linings — leading to generalized tissue damage, in particular to the muscles and liver .
Additionally, your body can’t effectively package and dispose of cholesterol with insufficient choline, so it’s possible to develop a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) when you become choline deficient as well .
Theoretically, a choline deficiency would affect your cognitive function as well, because research shows that your dietary intake of choline may influence how much acetylcholine your body is able to manufacture .
Luckily, as we mentioned above, most healthy people aren’t at risk of choline deficiency. The highest risk groups are pregnant women, people with genetic conditions that affect their innate choline production system and people who need IV nutrition .
Can You Take Too Much Choline?
It is more than possible to take too much choline. In fact, taking too much can cause some very unpleasant side effects like sweating, excess saliva production, low blood pressure, vomiting and a fishy body odor .
Choline toxicity can also cause irreversible damage to your liver, and may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Choline promotes the production of a substance called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in several studies.
Fortunately, it appears that choline from natural sources in the diet (like eggs) aren’t associated with an increased risk of heart disease. In fact, overdosing on choline from food sources alone would be extremely difficult. However, it becomes much easier to overdose if you’re taking choline supplements .
That’s why there is a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) established for choline. This amount represents the absolute maximum that anyone should take in a single day before they are at risk of experiencing adverse effects.
The UL for choline for adults is 3,500 mg/day across all groups. Make sure that the amount of supplementary choline you take — in addition to the choline in your diet — doesn’t exceed this level. After all, who wants to be excessively sweaty and smell like fish ?
Choline Supplements | Verdict
Choline is an essential nutrient that supports brain function, DNA synthesis, liver health and cell integrity.
In other words, it’s really important.
Although true deficiency is rare, most people are not getting enough choline in their diet. If you’re one of these people, you may benefit from a choline supplement.
Our favorite is Jarrow Formulas Citicoline, because Jarrow Formulas and Cognizin® Citicoline are trusted names synonymous with high quality. Additionally, citicoline is a supplemental form of choline that has clinical evidence to back up its brain-boosting benefits. In fact, citicoline could be considered a nootropic itself.
So, whether you’re a seasoned nootropics pro or new to the game, a choline supplement may help you unlock more potential and boost your productivity and performance even further.
Click here to order our top recommended Choline supplement!
- Wiedeman AM, Barr SI, Green TJ, Xu Z, Innis SM, Kitts DD. Dietary Choline Intake: Current State of Knowledge Across the Life Cycle. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1513. Published 2018 Oct 16. doi:10.3390/nu10101513
- Wurtman RJ, Regan M, Ulus I, Yu L. Effect of oral CDP-choline on plasma choline and uridine levels in humans. Biochem Pharmacol. 2000;60(7):989-992. doi:10.1016/s0006-2952(00)00436-6
- National Institutes of Health. Choline: Health professional fact sheet. Office of Dietary Supplements website. July 10, 2020. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/
- Brandes J. The pharmacology of smart drugs. Presentation; n.d.
- Abbiati G, Fossati T, Lachmann G, Bergamaschi M, Castiglioni C. Absorption, tissue distribution and excretion of radiolabelled compounds in rats after administration of [14C]-L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine. Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 1993;18(2):173-180. doi:10.1007/BF03188793
- Bruce SE, Werner KB, Preston BF, Baker LM. Improvements in concentration, working memory and sustained attention following consumption of a natural citicoline-caffeine beverage. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014;65(8):1003-1007. doi:10.3109/09637486.2014.940286
- Ylilauri MPT, Voutilainen S, Lönnroos E, et al. Associations of dietary choline intake with risk of incident dementia and with cognitive performance: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019;110(6):1416-1423. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqz148
- McGlade E, Agoston AM, DiMuzio J, et al. The Effect of Citicoline Supplementation on Motor Speed and Attention in Adolescent Males. J Atten Disord. 2019;23(2):121-134. doi:10.1177/1087054715593633
- Waymire JC. Chapter 11: Acetylcholine neurotransmission. In: Neuroscience Online [Internet]. UTHealth McGovern Medical School: n.d. Accessed February 2021. https://nba.uth.tmc.edu/neuroscience/m/s1/chapter11.html
- Wurtman RJ, Growdon JH. Dietary enhancement of CNS neurotransmitters. Hosp Pract. 1978;13(3):71-77. doi:10.1080/21548331.1978.11707296
- Tartar JL, Kalman D, Hewlings S. A Prospective Study Evaluating the Effects of a Nutritional Supplement Intervention on Cognition, Mood States, and Mental Performance in Video Gamers. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2326. Published 2019 Oct 1. doi:10.3390/nu11102326
- Levine J. Controlled trials of inositol in psychiatry. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 1997;7(2):147-155. doi:10.1016/s0924-977x(97)00409-4
- de Belleroche J, Cook GE, Das I, et al. Erythrocyte choline concentrations and cluster headache. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1984;288(6413):268-270. doi:10.1136/bmj.288.6413.268
- Meyer KA, Shea JW. Dietary Choline and Betaine and Risk of CVD: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Nutrients. 2017;9(7):711. Published 2017 Jul 7. doi:10.3390/nu9070711