Citicoline should be your first choice if you're looking for an effective brain-boosting supplement.
After all, sales of citicoline are through the roof right now and are expected to climb even higher in the next few years.
According to 360 Research Reports, "The global Citicoline market size was USD 303 million and is forecast to 679.2 million US in 2027." (1)
This market growth does not just represent oral citicoline supplement sales, though that's a big part of it.
Hospitals use it in an oral and injectable form for patients. It is also available in prescription form as tablets and capsules.
Though citicoline has multiple health benefits, it is used primarily for brain-related issues.
But does it really improve brain function? We'll get to that in a minute, but first, let's define citicoline.
What is Citicoline?
Citicoline is the synthetic form of a naturally-occurring compound in the body -- cytidine-diphosphocholine (CDP-choline) or cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine. It is present in every body cell, and small amounts are naturally present in some foods.
Eugene Kennedy and Samuel Weiss at the University of Chicago discovered CDP-choline in 1955. The following year, Kennedy used CDP-choline to produce citicoline.
Shortly after that, it was manufactured and used in Japan for stroke patients, specifically those recovering from ischemic stroke. Later, it was available by prescription in Europe to treat cognitive disorders. (2)
Though it took a while, news of citicoline's phenomenal brain-boosting benefits made it to the United States. It has been available here in supplement form since the 1980s. (3)
Citicoline vs Choline
Citicoline contains 18% choline and is an excellent source of this compound. (4) Then why not just take a choline supplement?
Two reasons. First, choline does not readily cross the blood-brain barrier. Second, citicoline delivers both choline and cytidine, a nucleoside that the body converts into uridine.
Uridine, a compound with numerous cognitive benefits of its own, readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Once there, it helps to convert choline into phosphatidylcholine for nerve-cell membrane growth. (5)
Additionally, scientific studies show that citicoline increases the production of several crucial neurotransmitters in the brain, including acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. (6)
These neurotransmitters are crucial for proper cognitive function, mood regulation, neuronal cell regulation, and more.
Does Citicoline Improve Memory?
YES! Numerous clinical trials show that subjects young and old -- i.e., adolescents to adults -- taking an oral citicoline treatment displayed significant improvement in attention, motor speed, and memory. It has even been shown to treat those with age-related cognitive decline effectively. (7, 8, 9,)
For example, in one study, 100 men and women aged 50 to 85 with age-associated memory impairment (AAMI) participated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. They were randomly assigned to the placebo or citicoline group for twelve weeks.
At the end of the twelve weeks, researchers noted that those receiving citicoline showed significantly more memory improvement than those receiving placebo. The researchers concluded:
"Dietary supplementation of citicoline for 12 wk improved overall memory performance, especially episodic memory, in healthy older males and females with AAMI. The findings suggest that regular consumption of citicoline may be safe and potentially beneficial against memory loss due to aging." (10)
This is excellent news, especially for older people experiencing memory issues.
Does Citicoline Help With Focus?
Yes, numerous clinical trials suggest that citicoline may help with attention and focus.
In one study, researchers recruited 60 healthy male and female participants aged 20-40 to test the effectiveness of citicoline on concentration, memory, and attention. Half of the participants randomly received a citicoline-caffeine drink, and others received a placebo.
The results? According to the study published in theInternational Journal of Foods Science and Nutrition:
Consistent with previous literature, results from this study indicate that participants receiving the citicoline-caffeine beverage exhibited increased performance on tasks associated with mental alertness, attention, and working memory in problem-solving compared to a placebo condition." (11)
These results are impressive, but it's important to note that caffeine -- a stimulant known to stimulate attention -- is probably equally responsible for these results.
So, much citicoline should you take to achieve better focus? According to this study, "250 mg of citicoline, when combined with caffeine," should do the job. (12)
Does Citicoline Help With Mood?
Yes, there is considerable evidence that citicoline supplementation may improve mood.
Research suggests that citicoline may stimulate dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter essential for mood and motivation. (12a) Indeed, a deficiency of dopamine is associated with depression. Theoretically, then, citicoline may help pull you out of a depressive episode if the issue is linked to low dopamine levels.
In a randomized placebo-controlled trial, researchers discovered that bipolar and unipolar depression in methamphetamine addicts was significantly reduced in those taking citicoline compared with placebo. (12b)
Can Citicoline Repair the Brain?
Here, again, the answer appears to be YES!!! Citicoline is a brain-healing, brain-hancing compound, after all.
So, let's dive into research that addresses the most common brain disorders or brain injuries.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the transition stage between age-related cognitive decline and the more severe decline of dementia.
It increases the risk of developing dementia. Indeed, about 12% of MCI patients per year advance toward Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia. (14)
MCI typically involves a moderate loss of memory that is more serious than usual age-related problems and can interfere with some aspects of day-to-day living.
Though research is lacking on citicoline's potential effect on MCI, numerous studies have shown it to treat memory deficits in general.
For example, one study recruited participants aged 50 to 85 with "relatively inefficient memories."
For three months, they were randomly assigned to a placebo group or a 1,000 mg per day citicoline group. In a crossover study, participants took a placebo and 2,000 mg per day for two months? (15)
In both studies, citicoline appeared to improve some aspects of memory.
However, the higher dosage of 2,000 mg/day showed more efficacy in treating memory deficits. The researchers concluded:
"Citicoline therapy improved verbal memory functioning in older individuals with relatively inefficient memories. Citicoline may prove effective in treating age-related cognitive decline that may be the precursor of dementia." (16)
But can it delay or prevent dementia? More research is needed to determine the answer to this pressing question, but it looks promising.
Mild Vascular Cognitive Impairment
Vascular mild cognitive impairment (vascular MCI) is the same as above, except the impairment is caused by vascular diseases, such as stroke and aneurysms.
Since cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke interrupt blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain -- thereby damaging its blood vessels -- MCI is a form of brain damage. Incredibly, multiple clinical research trials suggest that citicoline may help treat and reverse this damage and the cognitive dysfunction it causes.
In a study of 349 elderly patients with vascular MCI, published in the medical journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, researchers found citicoline highly effective in treating symptoms of MCI. (17)
The researchers concluded:
"Citicoline activates biosynthesis of phospholipids in neuronal membranes, increases brain metabolism as well as norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the central nervous system, and has neuroprotective effects during hypoxia and ischemia.
Therefore, citicoline may be recommended for patients with mild vascular cognitive impairment." (18)"
In other words, citicoline appears to health the brain damage caused by vascular disease.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is reduced or interrupted, preventing brain tissue from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Consequently, brain cells start to die quickly within minutes.
Stroke is not only a medical emergency and can be fatal, but it often leads to certain degrees of mental and physical disability.
There are many forms of stroke, including:
Acute ischemic stroke, aka acute stroke: Blood supply to the brain is reduced or interrupted, quickly causing brain cells to die. It refers to a stroke that occurred within 24 hours.
Ischemic stroke: Has the exact cause as an acute ischemic stroke but typically refers to the brain damage that occurred due to a blocked artery. (Most strokes are this type.) It typically causes ischemic brain injury.
Hemorrhagic stroke: Occurs when an artery in the brain bursts or leaks blood.
Transient cerebral ischemia (TIA): Blood supply to the brain is briefly blocked, causing a "mini-stroke" that lasts just minutes. A TIA significantly increases the risk of having a stroke in the future.
As you can see, there are many types of stroke. And guess what? Numerous research studies suggest that citicoline may be effective at treating its symptoms.
After all, it was first used in Japan to treat those recovering from ischemic stroke.
So, what does the science say exactly?
According to an article by Oregon neurologist Wayne M. Clark, MD, published in Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy:
"A meta-analysis of four randomized US clinical citicoline trials concluded that treatment with oral citicoline within the first 24 h after a moderate to severe stroke is safe and increases the probability of complete recovery at 3 months." (19)
Or, as Dr. Karsten Overgaard of Herlev Hospital, Denmark bluntly states, "Citicoline is the only drug that in a number of different clinical stroke trials continuously had some neuroprotective benefit." (20)
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by damage to the brain by an external force. It can occur when the head suddenly and violently hits an object or vice versa. It can be caused by an object piercing the skull and entering the brain.
Numerous clinical trials suggest that citicoline could help with TBI. For example, studies show that citicoline may significantly reduce brain swelling and speed recovery. (20a)
Chronic Neurodegenerative Diseases
Citicoline has also been shown to help reduce the symptoms of several neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Examples of neurodegenerative diseases include:
Numerous research studies indicate that citicoline has significant neuroprotective properties with potentially positive effects on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
For example, studies show that citicoline may protect the hippocampal neurons against cell death caused by beta-amyloid deposits, a neurotoxic protein. I
ndeed, it may even counteract the deposition of beta-amyloid. (Excessive deposition of beta-amyloid is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.) (21, 22)
Studies suggest that citicoline may be an effective adjuvant therapy for Parkinson's disease. In a review of seven studies of PD patients taking citicoline,
researchers found that they displayed "significant improvement in rigidity, akinesia [the inability to move muscles], tremor, handwriting, and speech" (23)
More research needs to be done, of course, but these studies offer compelling proof that citicoline may be an effective treatment for neurodegenerative diseases.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a condition characterized by a continual pattern of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity that interferes with tasks. It is the most common mental health disorder in children, affecting an estimated 6.1 million children in the United States. ADHD also affects adults.
Incredibly, limited research suggests that citicoline may help reduce ADHD symptoms like concentration and memory issues. (24)
Is Citicoline Safe?
According to WebMD, oral citicoline is safe to take for up to 90 days. (This is likely because there are no long-term studies for citicoline.) Research shows that citicoline is non-toxic and well-tolerated by most people, whether given orally or by injection. (25, 26)
Citicoline Side Effects
With that said, some people do experience side effects while taking citicoline.
Common side effects include:
Mild intestinal problems
If you experience any unusual symptoms after you start taking citicoline, please consult your health care provider.
There are no known drug interactions with citicoline intake that have been reported. Please speak with your doctor before taking this or any dietary supplement, particularly if you are taking medications or suffering from any ailment or disease. (27)
Can I Take Citicoline Supplements if Pregnant?
Children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid taking citicoline, as there have been no safety studies for these groups.
What is the Best form of Citicoline?
The best form of citicoline is Cognizin®, a brand that has been extensively studied and found effective for improving focus, memory, concentration, mood, and much more.
In one study, researchers found that middle-aged adults who took 500 mg of Cognizin® citicoline for six weeks showed a 13.6% increase in brain energy! Another study showed that just 250 mg per day improved focus and attention in middle-aged women. (28)
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