Choline Benefits for Nootropics Users | A-Z Guide

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choline benefits nootropics

If you’ve spent any time in the nootropics world, you’ve probably come across people singing the praises of choline benefits.

Why are nootropics users big on choline — you may ask?

Choline is a nutrient that carries significant benefits for brain and nervous system function, making it a worthwhile addition to any nootropic stack.

In fact, there’s an argument to be made that some types of choline are nootropics themselves.

And that’s just one of several compelling reasons that you may want to pair choline with your nootropics. Here’s your guide to choline benefits for nootropics users.

Click here to order our top recommended Choline supplement!

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What Is Choline?

Choline is an essential nutrient that’s actually pretty new on the scene. In the United States, it wasn’t deemed an essential nutrient until 1998 — and that’s because it’s not really like other nutrients. It’s neither a vitamin nor a mineral, but instead is a chemical found in certain foods that the body needs to build compounds that are absolutely necessary for survival and nervous system function [1].

Choline performs several unique functions in the body. It’s needed to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which carries messages to and from the nervous system. It’s also necessary to manufacture phosphatidylcholine, a phospholipid that lines the cell membrane of every single cell in your body and helps to direct the flow of nutrients, enzymes and other compounds into and out of the cells. Choline is also vital to make uridine, one of the building blocks of DNA [2, 3].

Foods high in choline include animal foods, particularly beef liver and eggs. Given a choice between the two, most people — unsurprisingly — opt for the eggs. Vegans and vegetarians can get choline from soybeans and potatoes. However, there are also several supplemental forms of choline available [2, 4]:

  • Choline bitartrate: least expensive, 40% choline, not as well absorbed or beneficial for cognitive function as other forms of choline [5, 6]
  • Alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine (alpha-GPC): 40% choline, well absorbed, can cross blood-brain barrier [7]
  • Phosphatidylcholine: phospholipid form of choline found in most foods
  • Cytidine diphosphate-choline (CDP choline or citicoline): 18% choline, nootropic qualities, precursor to uridine
  • Choline chloride: common in animal feed, not widely used in human supplements
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What Are Nootropics?

Nootropics, or “smart drugs,” are cognition-enhancing drugs and supplements that can help give you a boost in creativity, motivation, attention, memory, energy and/or concentration.

They can be prescription drugs — like Modafinil — or dietary supplements, like Mind Lab Pro. In addition, there are single-ingredient nootropic products and products that feature multiple nootropic ingredients.

Nootropics are used by a wide range of people — anyone from college students trying to cram for exams, to entrepreneurs burning the midnight oil and professionals in high-stress, demanding careers.

The best nootropics are made of compounds that can cross the blood-brain barrier to act directly on the brain. Our favorites are Modafinil, a prescription wakefulness drug, and Mind Lab Pro, a dietary supplement containing a potent mix of nutrients, chemicals and botanicals.

Choline Benefits for Nootropics Users

Choline and nootropics make a great combination. Here are some reasons you may want to consider adding choline to your routine.

Helps Reduce Modafinil Headaches

One of the main reasons choline is often used with Modafinil is because it might help with relieving the dreaded Modafinil headache, which can put many people off of Modafinil completely — leaving them unable to experience what a powerful cognitive enhancer it is.

Although there’s no firm scientific evidence to back up this use of choline, you can find lots of anecdotes on nootropics websites and subreddits.

One Reddit user says:

“Eating foods with choline (like eggs with the yolk) really does help, some people take supplements but honestly I found that working it into your diet keeps the headaches at bay. Modafinil and Armodafinil are notorious for this, and tons of folks swear by choline.”

Based on all of the anecdotal evidence we’ve gathered to date, choline and Modafinil seem safe to take together. But again, the clinical evidence on this front is scarce [8].

Just one study from the 1980s noted an association between low choline levels in red blood cells and cluster headaches, but it’s not clear if this would have any bearing on the types of headaches that some Modafinil users describe [9].

That’s why we personally use choline for Modafinil headaches only as a last resort. For more info, check out our tips on how to get rid of Modafinil headaches.

Neurotransmitter Production

Adequate amounts of choline are necessary for your body to manufacture acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter that’s responsible for bilateral communication between the nervous system and the rest of your body.

Acetylcholine is actually the chief neurotransmitter that regulates your autonomic nervous system, or the “automatic” bodily functions that you don’t have to think about — like your heartbeat, digestive activities and sweat gland function. Acetylcholine also has some pathways in the brain that help regulate mood, memory and cognitive function, and researchers theorize that the breaking down of these pathways might play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease [10].

Studies have also found that diet has a direct impact on neurotransmitter synthesis. Dietary choline intake dictates how much free choline is available for the brain to use for acetylcholine synthesis [11].

You can take all the nootropics in the world, but if you don’t have the basic building blocks for healthy brain function in place, you probably won’t experience nootropics to their full benefit.

Focus and Concentration

There’s a small but growing body of scientific literature that shows potential for choline as a powerful cognition booster.

One study in nearly 2,500 men found that those with the highest dietary choline intake (typically coming from eggs) had the lowest risk of dementia and performed better on cognitive tests, including speaking and memory assessments [12].

Citicoline, in particular, shows lots of promise. One study in 75 boys found that those who received citicoline rated higher on attention-based tasks, had faster reaction times and lower impulsivity [13]. Another high-quality trial in adults noted that a citicoline and caffeine beverage boosted memory, attention and reaction time [14].

Health Optimization

Another compelling reason you may want to take choline is simply that most people don’t get enough of it [2].

Most nootropics users are trying to maximize their productivity and cognitive function, and a key piece of that is making sure that the rest of your body is functioning optimally as well.

While true choline deficiency is rare, making sure that you’re getting enough choline in your diet can be one of those small changes with far-reaching effects — after all, you see the numerous benefits of getting enough choline that we’ve already listed.

So, whether you prefer to take a choline supplement, crack a few extra eggs every week, or eat more of the other choline foods, just make sure you’re getting enough.

Choline Dosage Guide

The National Academy of Medicine has established an Adequate Intake (AI) level for choline, which is a value that’s sufficient to prevent symptoms of choline deficiency. The AI for choline for adults is [2]:

  • Male: 550 mg/day
  • Female: 425 mg/day
    • Pregnant: 450 mg/day
    • Breastfeeding: 550 mg/day

Most choline supplements provide anywhere from 40% to 100% of the AI.

Conversely, there’s also an established Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), which is the most the average person could likely ingest without experiencing side effects from choline toxicity.

The UL for choline for adults is 3,500 mg/day for all groups.

So, while it’s theoretically safe to consume up to 3,500 mg/day of choline, it’s likely that most people don’t need such a high dose unless directed by their physician.

Where To Buy Choline Supplements Online?

The best place to buy choline supplements online is Amazon. They sell all forms of choline and offer a wide variety of brands.

However, our recommendation is the Jarrow Formulas Citicoline. Jarrow Formulas is a trusted supplier of high-quality vitamins and supplements. One of the best things about citicoline is that it can hold its own as a nootropic. Although the other forms of choline are sufficient, citicoline packs a powerful brain-boosting punch on its own or paired with another nootropic.

Additionally, although their product doesn’t disclose how much choline it contains, we know that Citicoline is 18% choline — meaning there’s about 45 mg of choline in a single 250 mg serving of Jarrow Formulas Citicoline. So not only does it provide nootropic benefits, it can also help you meet your choline needs.

Choline and Nootropics | Verdict

So what’s our final take on Choline?

For starters, it’s a nutrient that most people aren’t getting enough of, despite the many key roles it plays in cognitive performance, DNA synthesis and cell function.

Nootropics users might benefit from adding choline to their routine because it can help optimize health, promote focus and concentration and maintain optimal acetylcholine production. Crucially, if you’re prescribed Modafinil, it might help reduce or prevent headaches, which are a fairly common side effect of the drug.

Citicoline, in particular, is backed up by some compelling scientific evidence. It can boost memory, processing speed, and attention in people of all ages. Jarrow Formulas Citicoline is our top pick for nootropics users, but lots of people have found success by simply adding more choline to their diet, too.

When it comes to maximizing your cognitive function, you can’t sleep on choline. If you feel like you’re not getting the most out of your nootropics, or if you think that there’s still room to enhance your brain function, choline needs to be on your radar.

Click here to order our top recommended Choline supplement!

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References

  1. 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
  2. National Institutes of Health. Choline: Health professional fact sheet. Office of Dietary Supplements website. July 10, 2020.
  3. 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.
  4. Brandes J. The pharmacology of smart drugs. Presentation; n.d.
  5. Smolders L, de Wit NJW, Balvers MGJ, Obeid R, Vissers MMM, Esser D. Natural Choline from Egg Yolk Phospholipids Is More Efficiently Absorbed Compared with Choline Bitartrate; Outcomes of A Randomized Trial in Healthy Adults. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2758. Published 2019 Nov 13. doi:10.3390/nu11112758
  6. Lippelt DP, van der Kint S, van Herk K, Naber M. No Acute Effects of Choline Bitartrate Food Supplements on Memory in Healthy, Young, Human Adults. PLoS One. 2016;11(6):e0157714. Published 2016 Jun 24. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0157714
  7. 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
  8. Drug interaction report. Drugs.com website. Accessed February 2021. https://www.drugs.com/interactions-check.php?drug_list=1647-0,649-0
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. Wurtman RJ, Growdon JH. Dietary enhancement of CNS neurotransmitters. Hosp Pract. 1978;13(3):71-77. doi:10.1080/21548331.1978.11707296
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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

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