Most effective nootropic stacks include a choline source. Although there are several others, the two most commonly used cholinergics are alpha-GPC and CDP-choline.
If you are interested in learning more about alpha-GPC, you can do so here. But today we’re gonna be going over the benefits of CDP-choline.
CDP-choline, also known as citicoline, is a potent nootropic with a number of physical and nootropic benefits. We’ll get to the benefits, side effects, dosage, and stack information shortly. First, let’s look at what exactly CDP-choline is.
What Is CDP-Choline?
CDP-choline (aka citicoline, cytidine diphosphate-choline) is a nootropic with a number of physical and cognitive benefits. It is known to improve memory, attention, motivation, and other aspects of cognitive functioning1.
Some of CDP-choline’s benefits can be explained by its ability to convert to choline and uridine in the body2. Once those substances cross the blood-brain-barrier, they convert back into CDP-choline resulting in an increase in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine3.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in a number of important mental and physical functions. Some of these functions include muscle activation, memory, learning, motivation, and arousal4.
Another way that CDP-choline may exert some of its effects is through its ability to increase dopamine receptor densities in certain parts of the brain5. This helps to explains, at least in part, how CDP-choline supplementation is able to improve motivation and attention.
Lastly, CDP-choline seems to increase levels of growth hormone (HGH), luteinizing hormone (LH), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), at least under some conditions6. This mechanism of action may also help to explain some of CDP-choline’s effects.
Benefits Of CDP-Choline
CDP-choline has a number of nootropic benefits. One of these benefits is increased attention. In a study done on healthy women, CDP-choline was found to significantly improve attention7. The women were divided into 3 groups. One group received 250 mg of CDP-choline a day, another group got 500 mg, and the last group was given a placebo. After 28 days of supplementation, the women in the 250 mg group did better on attention tests than the placebo group. And the women in the 500 mg group did even better.
Another benefit of CDP-choline is its ability to improve memory. While plenty of healthy CDP-choline users of all ages report memory improvement, most of the scientific studies have been done on the elderly.
One study, for example, was done on elderly subjects with relatively inefficient memories8. This study found that CDP-choline was able to improve verbal memory functioning in subjects with relatively inefficient memories.
Another study done on elderly subjects with declining memory, but without dementia, showed similar results9. This study found that CDP-choline supplementation improves memory in free recall tasks.
CDP-choline has other important benefits. Some promising research indicates that CDP-choline may be useful to help with some aspects of addiction.
One study found that short-term treatment with CDP-choline was able to reduce cravings in cocaine-dependent people10. This study found that cocaine addicts had less cravings after taking CDP-choline.
Another study done on bipolar patients that were dependent on cocaine has similar results11. This study showed that CDP-choline supplementation was able to help with memory and cocaine cravings.
Lastly, CDP-choline may have appetite-reducing effects at higher dosages. A study done to examine the effect of CDP-choline on appetite found that 2,000 mg a day decreased appetite12. In this study, some of the participants took 500 mg of CDP-choline a day and some took 2,000 mg a day. The participants that took the higher dosage had the greatest reduction in appetite.
- Improved Memory
- Improved Learning
- Increased Attention
- Decreased Appetite
- Increased Motivation
- Increased Acetylcholine
- Increased Dopamine
- Reduced Cravings For Drugs and Alcohol
CDP-Choline Side Effects
CDP-choline has an excellent safety profile. Side effects are very rare and when they do occur they are usually very mild.
When side effects do occur, they may include insomnia (trouble sleeping), headache, upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, blurred vision, low or high blood pressure, and dizziness. If you experience any of these side effects, simply stop taking CDP-choline and they should resolve on their own.
We could not find any adverse drug interactions for CDP-choline. However, it’s always a good idea to speak with a licensed healthcare professional before starting or stopping any supplement, especially if you are taking one or more prescription medications.
CDP-choline is usually taken at a dosage of anywhere from 500 mg a day to 2,000 mg a day13. It can be taken all at once, but may work best if taken in two divided doses, spaced 8-12 hours apart.
As with all nootropics, it is recommended that you start with a low dosage and work your way up as needed. Some users report great results with just 500 mg a day. Others report that they don’t notice any effects until they get up to 2,000 mg a day. It is recommended that you start with 250 mg twice a day for the first couple weeks, and then increase the dose if you are not experiencing the desired results.
CDP-Choline may absorb a little better when taken on an empty stomach. However, this is not necessary. If you experience nausea or upset stomach, you should take CDP-choline with a small meal.
You can experience the nootropic benefits of CDP-choline by taking it by itself. However, most users take CDP-choline as part of a larger nootropic stack.
“Stacking” simply means taking more than one nootropic at a time to get added results. These added results could be a reduction in potential side effects, or an increase in nootropic effects.
For example, CDP-choline is often taken together with piracetam for both of these reasons. Piracetam is a great nootropic, but it can cause headaches in some users14. This is thought to be caused by reduced levels of acetylcholine in the brain (although we could not find any science to support this). Many users report that taking CDP-choline with piracetam eliminates the headaches, possibly by its ability to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain.
Not only does CDP-choline reduce the side effects of piracetam, but users report that it increases the benefits as well. Although it has not been scientifically studied yet, there are countless anecdotal reports of a synergistic effect between these two nootropics. Users say that taking CDP-choline and piracetam together works much better than taking either one alone.
But piracetam isn’t the only nootropic that stacks well with CDP-choline. In fact, just about every other nootropic will stack well with this cholinergic. This is because it is known to be effective, has no known drug interactions, and is extremely safe at recommended dosages.
The most common class of nootropic that we’ve seen CDP-choline stacked with is the racetams (piracetam, phenylpiracetam, oxiracetam, aniracetam, etc.). It seems to increase their effects while reducing or eliminating some of the side effects that sometimes go with them.
CDP-choline can also be stacked with adaptogens, eugeroics, stimulants, precursors, and other nootropics. Different stacks work for different people. If the first couple things you try don’t work for you, don’t give up. Sometimes it takes a little experimentation to find your optimal stack. But once you do, you’ll be glad you went through the trouble!
As we’ve seen, CDP-choline is a potent nootropic with a number of benefits. Improved memory, attention, and motivation can all be expected with this amazing cholinergic.
While it can be taken by itself, it is usually taken as part of a nootropic stack. It is most commonly stacked with the racetams, but also stacks well with most other nootropics.
If you’re not taking CDP-choline or another cholinergic as part of your daily stack, you could be missing out on some added nootropic benefits. Give it a try, and start experiencing the benefits of CDP-choline!
1Supplement naturally boosts ageing brain power. (2008). Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved April 1, 2016 from http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/02/24/1203788130776.html
2Wurtman, R., Regan M., Ulus, I., & Yu, L. (2000). Effect of oral CDP-choline on plasma choline and urudine levels in humans. Biochemical Pharmacology, 60(7):989-92.
3Alvarez, X., Sampedro, C., Lozano, R., & Cacabelos, R. (1999). Citicoline protects hippocampal neurons against apoptosis induced by brain beta-amyloid deposits plus cerebral hypoperfusion in rats. Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, 21(8):535-40.
5Gimenez, R., Raich, J., & Aguilar, J. (1991). Changes in brain striatum dopamine and acetylcholine receptors induced by chronic CDP-choline treatment of aging mice. British Journal of Pharmacology, 104(3):575-8.
6Cavun, S., & Savci, V. (2004). CDP-choline increases plasma ACTH and potentiates the stimulated release of GH, TSH and LH: the cholinergic involvement. Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology, 18(5):513-23.
7McGlade, E., Locatelli, A., Hardy, J., Kamiya, T., Morita, M., Morishita, K., Sugimura, Y., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. (2012). Improved attentional performance following citicoline administration in healthy adult women. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 3(6):769-773.
8Spiers, P., Myers, D., Hochanadel, G., Lieberman, H., & Wurtman, R. (1996). Citicoline improves verbal memory in aging. Arch Neurol., 53(5):441-8.
9Alvarez, X., Laredo, M., Corzo, D., Fernandez-Novoa, L., Mouzo, R., Perea, J., Daniele, D., & Cacabelos, R. (1997). Citicoline improves memory performance in elderly subjects. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol., 19(3):201-10.
10Renshaw, P., Daniels, S., Lundahl, L., Rogers, V., & Lukas, S. (1999). Short-term treatment with citicoline (CDP-choline) attenuates some measures of craving in cocaine-dependent subjects: a preliminary report. Psychopharmacology (Berl.), 142(2):132-8.
11Brown, E., Gorman, A., & Hynan, L. (2007). A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of citicoline add-on therapy in outpatients with bipolar disorder and cocaine dependence. J Clin Psychopharmacol., 27(5):498-502.
12Kilgore, W., Ross, A., Kamiya, T., Kawada, Y., Renshaw, P., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. (2010). Citicoline affects appetite and cortico-limbic responses to images of high-calorie foods. Int J Eat Disord., 43(1):6-13.
14Hakkarainen, H., & Hakamies, L. (1978). Piracetam in the treatment of post-concussional syndrome. A double-blind study. European Neurology, 17(1):50-5.