When it comes to boosting brainpower, choline is a must-have ingredient for any nootropic stack. Buying choline can be a little confusing, however. There are many different forms of this nutrient on the market, and some are better than others.
In this article, we're going to discuss the best choline supplements available in 2022, as well as revealing the top nootropic brain supplement that features choline.
What Is Choline?
So what is choline, exactly? Choline is a vitamin-like essential nutrient. It is often lumped in with B vitamins but isn't officially categorized as a B vitamin.
Choline was originally discovered in lecithin, a substance that is found in egg yolks.
In health, choline helps form healthy cell membranes that function normally. It is also required for maintaining the structural integrity of all cells in both animals and plants, as well as for normal cell growth and function.
Choline supplementation appears to have a far-reaching impact on overall wellness. Choline supplements are taken for a range of concerns, including for cognitive and brain health, central nervous system performance, liver health, muscle function, sports nutrition and more.
Let's take a closer look at some of the health benefits associated with choline supplements.
Nootropic and Brain Health
When you look through shelves now, you'll find loads of brain supplements categorized as nootropics: supplements that help boost cognition and brain function. Nootropics are often combined, a practice known as "stacking."
Choline is one of the most fundamental nootropics to be included in early brain-booster stacks. It remains crucial into adulthood due to its far reaching roles in elevating mental performance, supporting overall brain health and maintaining proper brain function.
Choline acts as one of the building blocks for your brain's structure and signaling processes. It is the precursor for two essential compounds:
Acetylcholine (ACh): A key neurotransmitter that facilitates communication between neurons in the brain, as well as being the primary neurotransmitter at neuromuscular junctions. Neurotransmitter acetylcholine activates the “cholinergic system” that orchestrates signaling used in learning, memory storage and recall
Phosphatidylcholine (PC): One of the most abundant phospholipids in cell membranes and acts as a reservoir of choline for the synthesis of acetylcholine. The most important phospholipid "building block" for neurons, PC is used in the creation of fresh new brain cells, as well as in the ongoing repair, rejuvenation and stabilization of brain cell membranes. One of the omega fatty acids, DHA, plays a similar structural role.
Choline supplements help to maintain healthy levels, which in turn may help with:
Cognitive performance: By supporting levels of neurotransmitter acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine, in addition to other brain chemicals, choline supplements perform crucial functions for cognition and brain health, especially in the context of learning and memory, attention, focus and brain regeneration. Some early research has linked higher intake of choline to higher levels of cognitive function.
Memory: Because of its role in producing acetylcholine, choline is important for learning and memory. Choline supplements promote acetylcholine release, which in turn modulates several different components of memory—working memory, long-term memory, memory formation, and memory consolidation and retrieval. Some research has shown that patients requiring parenteral nutrition exhibited lower choline levels that impaired verbal and visual memory, and that a choline supplement improved these cognitive functions.
Long-range brain health: Both phosphatidylcholine and acetylcholine are believed to decline with age, which may dull cognitive function. Studies also suggest that abnormalities in choline availability and acetylcholine production may lead to increased risk of developing memory disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative brain issues. Choline supplements address both PC and ACh, potentially helping to maintain healthy function in the aging brain.
Mood: It may not be the first supplement you think about for mood, but evidence suggests that the cholinergic system plays an important role in mood regulation. Both hyper- and hypocholinergic states appear to induce depression and mania, respectively.
Sports nutrition benefits
Choline supplements support muscular performance. Choline is found in a variety of forms in sport nutrition formulas. It helps coordinate muscle signaling, but can be depleted during times of intense exertion.
Athletes may take choline supplements for muscle function, cognitive benefits and overall potential to sustain acetylcholine levels through training sessions.
Muscle function: As an essential building block for acetylcholine, choline is required for the proper function of muscles. While acetylcholine operates as a chief neurotransmitter in several areas of the body, it's most commonly associated with the neuromuscular junction. This junction is where motor neurons synapse with muscles in the body to activate them and cause contraction.
Energy & endurance: Intense physical exertion depletes acetylcholine levels. Low levels of acetylcholine have been linked to the onset of fatigue. Choline supplements, including lecithin, may help to maintain acetylcholine levels required for vitality to power through workouts and games.
Choline supplements have been investigated for their ability to promote body mass reduction in athletes. In one study, researchers reported choline supplements appeared to be linked to more rapid body mass reduction in taekwondo and judo athletes. Researchers partly attributed this benefit to choline's role in fat metabolism.
The liver does produce choline, but when humans fail to get enough choline from diet or from choline supplements, fatty liver disease is often an associated consequence. Fatty liver disease can damage liver function if not addressed promptly. A good choline supplement may help in maintaining liver function.
Pregnancy & Early Childhood Development
Mothers-to-be may not get sufficient choline, and are encouraged to consider choline supplements. For both adults and babies, choline is essential for the brain development and nervous system development.
During pregnancy, choline is especially critical for supporting proper fetal growth and development, especially in regards to the brain. But some evidence shows expecting mothers and lactating mothers' dietary intake of choline is too low.
The area of the brain most sensitive to choline levels is the hippocampus, which is the region of the brain playing key roles in memory and learning.
And interestingly, the hippocampus one of the few areas of the brain where nerve cells continue to multiply throughout life. Maternal levels of choline (sufficient or low) can cause permanent changes to the developing fetal and infant brain that will last a lifetime.
In 2017, the American Medical Association, recommended that prenatal vitamins should supply choline. In 2018 the American Academy of Pediatrics noted choline's brain-building potential, and recommended that pregnant women and young children strive to hit healthy dietary choline intake.
Best Food Sources Of Choline
Humans naturally synthesize choline in the liver, primarily as phosphatidylcholine, but the amount that the body naturally produces is not sufficient to meet human needs. Therefore it is considered an essential nutrient. Choline found in foods and supplements is the answer.
A diet rich in choline, which may include a choline supplement, is essential to proper body function and improved brain function. Some of the best foods choline is present in (from the most concentrated to the least) include:
- Beef liver
- Eggs (140 mg of choline per yolk!)
- Red potatoes
- Kidney beans
- Brussels sprouts
Because many of the key sources of choline come from animal foods, vegans and vegetarians must look outside the box for their dietary choline intake. The best choline supplements provide options for vegans.
Choline Deficiency: Is It a Real Issue?
Deficiency of any nutrient is possible, but when it comes to choline, it's actually quite rare. Studies find that even in people who haven't eaten in a week, choline levels rarely drop below 50%.
But because of its roles in human metabolism, from neurotransmitter synthesis to cellular integrity, it's suggested that choline deficiency is linked to increased risk for health conditions like liver disease, atherosclerosis, and potentially even neurological disorders.
As well, because phosphatidylcholine is an essential component of very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), which transport triglycerides out of the liver, one of the first and most prominent signs of choline deficiency is the development of fatty liver (hepatosteatosis); this develops due to insufficient phosphatidylcholine needed to package and export VLDL.
Despite its rarity, some of the most common symptoms of choline deficiency include:
- Ongoing tiredness or fatigue
- Reduced ability to think things through or problem solve
- Difficulty picking up new information
- Emotional swings or mood disorders
- Memory trouble
- Muscle aches
- Nerve pain or tingling
Note that some populations are at greater risk for not getting enough choline, specifically pregnant women and people with genetic disorders affecting choline, folate, and methionine metabolism.
How much choline do you need? Adequate intake for Choline follows:
- Birth to 6 months of age: 125 mg of choline per day
- Age 7 to 12 months: 150 mg of choline
- 1-3 years old: 200 mg of choline
- 4-8 years old: 250 mg of choline
- 9-13 years old: 375 mg of daily choline intake
- 14- 18 years old: 550 mg of choline per day for males, 400 mg for females
- 19+ years old: 550 mg of choline daily for males, 425 mg for females
- Pregnant females: 450 mg of choline per day
- Lactating females: 550 mg per day
What Forms Of Choline are Available?
Like all other supplements, there's more than just one choline form. The best choline supplements will use forms with advantages in potency, absorption and effectiveness.
Lecithin is a substance originally discovered in egg yolks. More than a choline supplement, lecithin is a natural stack comprised of several different compounds, including phosphatidylcholine (which includes choline), inositol and nootropic phosphatidylserine (PS). Soy lecithin PS in particular has shown some promise to improve brain functions and fight the effects of cognitive decline.
Some choline supplements will supply the nutrient as Alpha GPC choline. Also called choline alfoscerate, Alpha GPC is noted for its ease of absorption and ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.
The Alpha GPC form in particular has been used in European healthcare for its potential to optimize overall cognitive function and help with age-related cognitive decline and liver problems.
Alpha GPC choline supplements are also popular among athletes. The nutrient is utilized in a number of sports nutrition formulas for its effects on focus, intensity and muscle function.
Choline bitartrate is a common form of choline used for nootropic supplements. It's not a bad form to get, per se, but the general problem with this form is that you sacrifice quality for cost.
By weight, it's about 41% choline, but it's one of the most ineffective forms of choline for crossing the blood-brain barrier. If it can't get into the brain, it can't work.
Effective human studies are pretty limited where choline bitartrate is concerned, but in rodent studies, it has been shown to increase levels of choline by 52% compared to the control group not supplementing choline.
Another rodent study found that supplementing choline bitartrate in rats with traumatic brain injury improved spatial memory and neuronal impairments.
In humans, however, choline bitartrate supplementation has shown no promising effects for cognitive function. Studies show that choline bitartrate does not improve visuospatial memory performance compared with a placebo, visuospatial working memory, declarative retrieval, or verbal working memory performance. This may be due to inefficiency with crossing the blood-brain barrier.
Making matters worse, this inexpensive form has been linked to fishy body odor as a potential side effect. Simply put, if you're looking a choline supplement to support cognitive function and memory, choline bitartrate may not be the best choice.
Citicoline (CDP choline)
Citicoline, the less technical name for cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine (CDP-choline), is the best form of choline to look for. It functions as an essential intermediate in the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine and plays a vital role in cognitive function.
It's the best and most effective choline form because it converts to two key compounds upon ingestion:
Choline: 18% choline by weight
Cytidine: The precursor to uridine, a nucleotide that plays a major role in synaptic strength and neural connectivity
Combining these two makes for a powerful cognitive enhancer that well surpasses the standard functions of a sole choline supplement.
Here's why citicoline is the best choline supplement:
Boosts neurotransmitter synthesis—Improves synthesis of acetylcholine while potentially increasing release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and reward
Promotes synaptogenesis—May hold substantial neuroregenerative potential and enhances both brain neuroprotective and neuro repair mechanisms
Increases ATP and phosphocreatine—Studies show a 7% increase in phosphocreatine levels and a 14% increase in ATP levels with citicoline supplementation, which increases energy reserves and utilization, as well as amounts of phospholipid membrane components needed to synthesize and maintain cell membrane integrity and function
Basically, a CDP Choline supplement supplies the form of choline that covers everything you need for brain function. It supports attention and mental performance, while also enhancing memory, learning, overall brain health and much more.
Best Choline supplement with Citicoline: Mind Lab Pro
If you're ready to start taking choline, consider getting it from a far-reaching dietary supplement: Mind Lab Pro.
What makes Mind Lab Pro the best choline supplement, specifically? It has to do with formula strategy: Mind Lab Pro reinforces choline benefits with several dynamic nootropics, unlocking a whole new world of cognitive performance enhancement.
Mind Lab Pro is the world's greatest brain boosting nootropic supplement, known as a Universal Nootropic for its ability to support virtually all aspects of cognition and brain health.
Mind Lab Pro supplies the best form of supplemental choline -- citicoline -- at a dosage of 250 mg per serving.
Citicoline, 250 mg
Citicoline is the driving force behind Mind Lab Pro's brain-boosting effects. Mind Lab Pro features citicoline in its formula in order to:
- Energize brain cells for peak cognitive performance without the crash of stimulants
- Enhance attention, focus, information processing
- Support multiple aspects of memory and recall
- Promote brain chemicals acetylcholine, dopamine and norepinephrine
- Assist with synthesis, maintenance and repair of brain cell membranes
- Protect brain cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and aging
That's just the beginning. Mind Lab Pro® stacks the cleanest and most effective form of with ten additional nootropics to boost all aspects of cognition—especially for those whose active lifestyles demand dynamic brainpower.
The other 10 ingredients in this citicoline stack are:
Phosphatidylserine, 100 mg (Sharp-PS® Green)
Best nootropic for memory; works together with choline supplements like citicoline to optimize brain cell membranes. PS also helps to support healthy acetylcholine levels in the brain, as well promoting brain cell energy production.
Bacopa Monnieri, 150 mg (24% bacosides, 9 bioactives)
Ultimate learner's nootropic, with additional stress-busting, mood-balancing benefits. Bacopa backs up citicoline with additional support for brain chemical acetylcholine. Bacopa also supplies neuroprotective antioxidant activity.
Organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom, 500 mg
(full spectrum extract): Supports nerve growth factor (NGF), which in turn supports brain regeneration and cell membrane function. Lion's mane has been shown to help to promote a bright and healthy mood.
Rhodiola Rosea, 50 mg (3% rosavins, 1% salidrosides)
Strengthens resistance to stress, known for enhancing mind-body performance and promoting natural energy. Rhodiola makes for an interesting pairing with citicoline as both have research-backed benefits for energy, via separate pathways.
L-Theanine, 100 mg (Suntheanine®)
Amino acid nootropic that promotes a sensation of clear-headed, relaxed alertness. L-Theanine supplies strong antioxidant activity that has shown promise for protecting brain cells against the damaging effects of free radicals, a benefit that may synergize with citicoline's brain health support.
L-Tyrosine, 175 mg (N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine)
Stacks well with CDP choline because it also s master precursor to brain chemicals depleted by stress, including acetylcholine. It has been shown to enhance cognition under stressful and challenging scenarios; this benefit pairs well with citicoline when supporting athletes, students and competitors.
Maritime Pine Bark Extract, 75 mg (95% proanthocyanidins)
Powerful antioxidant complex protects blood cells and helps optimize blood circulation. Some evidence suggests the flavonoid antioxidants in Maritime Pine Bark Extract may have some brain-regenerating potential, including supporting brain plasticity and structure, that may combine well with citicoline's structural support.
Vitamins B6 2.5 mg, B9 100 mcg, B12 7.5 mcg (NutriGenesis)
These B vitamins regulate homocysteine that damages blood vessels; helps neurotransmitter production, including acetylcholine, for mood and memory.
while all its 11 ingredients are effective, Citicoline is the main ingredient behind Mind Lab Pro®’s 100% Brainpower™ effects.
It is a big reason why it is a single nootropic that can boost multiple pathways to optimize mental performance and whole-brain health.
Formulation-wise, it's the unique 11-in-1 combination of nootropics, including a healthy choline dosage as citicoline, that make Mind Lab Pro the best choline stack on the market today.
Mind Lab Pro Quality
The other big reason why Mind Lab Pro is the top choline supplement is its quality.
Mind Lab Pro takes great care to provide you with a clean, premium supplement that boosts performance in support of -- not at the expense of -- your overall health:
- Natural, safe and legal way to revitalize cognitive performance
- Stim-free energy booster for those who avoid caffeine
- Delivered in plant-based, prebiotic-infused NutriCaps® from pullulan
- No artificial colors, preservatives or pointless additives
- Cost-effective design supplies CDP choline and much more in 1 capsule
- Third-party tested and validated for the ultimate in quality assurance
Ultimately, Mind Lab Pro supplies the benefits of a standalone choline supplement plus far more than other choline supplements. It is designed to add on to citicoline's benefits while diversifying with many more nootropic benefits for brain health and cognitive function.
Mind Lab Pro is designed to be taken every day, to nourish brain wellness over time.
It is designed as a nootropic dietary supplement first and foremost, but Mind Lab Pro's 250 mg of citicoline per serving may also contribute to levels that benefit other areas, including liver and brain function, weight loss, athletic performance, endurance and more.
Mind Lab Pro itself has been shown to be safe and effective.
Of all the high quality brain supplements on the market, Mind Lab Pro is one of the only ones to have undergone rigorous scientific research.
Specifically, Mind Lab Pro has recently been studied in a human clinical trial. The promising results of this study will be published in the near future.
But in the meantime, Mind Lab Pro is available to purchase today. It's the only choline product you will ever need.
Choline supplementation is a smart way to get a key essential nutrient for brain health and more. Taking choline supplements can be challenging, however, due to the many different forms that are on the market.
CDP choline, also known as citicoline, is the best form of choline to look for in dietary supplements.
If you're going to take a choline supplement, especially for brain health, it makes sense to get a stack formula that combines citicoline with additional nutrients for brain health and function.
Mind Lab Pro is a formula that skillfully combines 11 different nootropics, including 250 mg of premium citicoline, into a single supplement that does it ALL for the brain.