Not all choline supplements are created equal. There are four forms of choline widely available, of these I would put three in the best choline stack. The other one I would just put in the bin.
Choline is a an essential nutrient for maintaining brain health but not all supplements can reach your brain. Which choline supplement is a waste of money?
If you want to remember that crucial presentation at work, cram some last minute facts for an exam or simply remember to pick up groceries on the way home, choline is the supplement you should be taking.
Choline helps maintain and restore and normal liver function, able to reduce fatty liver build up so a great nutrient to take if you used to eat a lot of sugar. In your brain it is used to make acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter most commonly associated with learning and memory, and to maintain healthy brain cell membranes. Choline is avalaible to us in a wide range of foods, usually fatty foods such as eggs and liver. However, it is an essential nutrient meaning we cannot make enough in our own bodies and must get it from external sources. Unfortunately some 90% of the general population are usually deficient in choline, this can affect memory, concentration and logical thinking abilities.
What Is Choline?
Choline (2-hydroxy-N,N,N-trimethyl-ethanaminium) is a water soluble nutrient used related to b-vitamins such as B12.
Choline is used during the process of methylation which is itself vital to correct nerve signalling in the brain and body, and also for detoxification. Most people to looking to choline to enhance their performance will know of it as the precursor to acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter responsible for helping nerves and muscles communicate. In short it keeps your brain firing correctly and firing fast.
Choline is not a vitamin but an essential micronutrient which cannot be produced in any quantity in the body. It is a common ingredient in many nootropic stacks.
Doses for choline vary significantly since their is no agreed RDA like with other vitamins. And besides, RDA is generally complete crap and designed only to keep you alive, we are aiming to thrive here so the doses below seem a good starting point.
Typically a dose of 250mg to 500mg is used for general health. To enhance your brain more is recommended.
To create more acetycholine it is worth considering higher doses of 1000mg to 2000mg infrequently, for example 2-3 times a week increase the dose to this level. The reason for this is that at higher doses more choline is sent to the brain.
As with all supplements start slow! Headaches have been reported using choline so starting at 100mg a day and building up is sensible precaution.
The Best Choline Stack To Take
First of all, you have to ask yourself if you need to supplement with choline. It is a naturally occurring micronutrient so let us first examine the choline containing foods you could simply eat more of instead of buying supplements.
|Food||mg of choline per portion stated|
|A large egg||113|
|Raw beef liver 5 ounces (142 g)||473|
|A cup (143 g) of almonds||54|
|A cup (146 g) of peanuts||77|
|Two cups of cooked kidney beans||108|
|A quart of mik (approx 250ml)||173|
|454 grams of cauliflower||177|
You can see that to get up to 1000mg plus per day you will be eating a whole lot of beef liver… who eats beef liver? Pork pate maybe but beef… no. Or you could eat 10 eggs a day but again, not that appealing.
So let’s dig into the forms of choline available to buy and maybe some links to good sources on the net.
Choline bitartrate is the most common form of choline and also one of the least expensive. Unfortunately, as is often the case the cheapest is also the least effective. It will give some benefit but since it is a salt it needs converting into a lipid (a fat) in the liver before it can make it across the blood brain barrier.
Remember that the choline will not be used to create acetylcholine until it reaches your brain. So if you are looking for a mind enhancement then this is poor choice. HOWEVER, if you want to use choline for the liver health benefits, perhaps you have fatty liver, then you could go easy on the wallet and use choline bitartrate.
As it is much less available to your brain than other forms of choline available to buy bitartrate is generally a poor choice for improve your performance. Don’t waste your money on this one. Yes, it’s cheap but you would be better off just eating eggs and steak for every meal.
Phosphatidylcholine is a step up from the choline bitartrate as it is more readily available to the brain. This is because it is attached to a lipid molecule so it can more easily pass through the blood brain barrier.
Vegetarians often find themselves supplementing with this type of choline without realizing it. Foods popular with vegetarians such as soy beans, tofu, and lecithin granules all contain phosphatidylcholine and so are great to eat. The only thing worth remembering is that even the lecithin contains under 10% choline and so supplementation is usually still necessary to give any cognitive benefit.
CDP Choline (Citicoline)
If you are looking to benefit from the cognitive enhancement of choline then cdp choline is the first supplement that you should consider.
Cdp is widely used and due to the lipid structure helping it cross the blood brain barrier it gives excellent results. Interestingly this is the preferred form of choline when used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in many countries around the world.
This form of choline has also been shown to improve blood flow to the brain giving a better oxygen supply and therefore better performance. This is one of the best choline supplements you could choose but not the best… that one is still to come.
Alpha GPC Choline
This is the daddy of choline supplements. Alpha GPC (L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine) is the best choline supplement available today. A potent nootropic it gives much stronger results than the other forms mentioned. The Alpha GPC is purer and crosses the blood brain barrier more readily than any other product, this is turn means that more acetylcholine neurotransmitter can be created.
It is kind of interesting to note that the method by which the acetylcholine is made is slighty different with alpha gpc compared with cdp-choline. The cdp acts as the precursor to acetylcholine whereas the alpha gpc produces acetylcholine as it breaks down. So different route – same result, or better result in this case.
Still not sure which is the best choline supplement?
Really? OK. TL:DR – The clear winner is the alpha GPC choline which is the most readily available. As a bonus there is even some evidence that it causes an uplift in Human Growth Hormone (HGH) if taken an hour or so before intense exercise.