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Choline + Uridine: Build New Neurons and Protect Against Alzheimer’s!

It’s a fact of life, age-related memory loss affects millions of Americans. And we’re not just talking about Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementias (though we will later). We’re talking about simple forgetfulness that seems to increase as we age.

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However, this inevitable decline in brainpower is not inevitable thanks to two naturally occurring compounds in your body—choline (one of the B vitamins) and uridine (a building block of RNA)—and a fascinating, naturally occurring self-maintenance system going on in your brain right now.The trick is to support this natural self-maintenance system by “feeding” it properly. Do that, and it will support your brain function … now and as you get older.

Here’s how this system can support your brainpower … right now. Controlled studies have shown that daily administration of choline to support this self-maintenance system improved the immediate recall and attention in a group of healthy young adult men ages 19 - 38.1

Some of the most recent—and most exciting— research is being conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Researchers at MIT have been studying brain chemistry for over 30 years. Their recent efforts have shown that uridine has significant impact on repairing the neurons in gerbils, whose brain chemistry is remarkably like ours.2

These and numerous other clinical studies demonstrate that when you provide essential nutrients to this natural repair system, you halt its tendency to slow down with age.

Take good care of it, and you can expect to remain sharp well into your 70s, 80s, and beyond.

A simple picture of a complex system …and how to keep it firing at top efficiency

It’s easy to bolster your brain’s self-maintenance system in a few minutes. But first, let’s take a quick tour of your brain’s “wiring.” This way you can see how effectively your brain is able to keep functioning at top performance when taken care of properly.

All your physical actions, all your thoughts and ideas, all your memories result from nerve impulses traveling along and between neurons. When you think, move, or remember, these long, thin cells conduct electrical impulses down them and then send the impulse along to another neuron. 


The electrical impulses are sent to the next neuron one of two ways. If the neurons are physically connected, the nerve impulse is carried on directly.
If there is a gap between the neurons—called a synapse—one or more of several chemicals called neurotransmitters carry it across the tiny gap. The most common neurotransmitter is acetylcholine —or ACh for short. Notice the word “choline” imbedded here. This is important.

All brain functions use neurons and neurotransmitters. Without them, you have nothing.

 

For lasting brain health and brainpower: Repair … Rebuild … and Re-supply

So how important are choline and uridine to your brain’s self-maintenance system?

They are the self-maintenance system!

Choline is a simple B vitamin that occurs naturally in many foods. One of its most crucial functions is as a precursor to the neurotransmitter ACh.

 

If you did not have choline in your system, you wouldn’t have any ACh. No ACh … no brain activity. Quite literally, without choline, we couldn’t move, think, sleep, or remember anything. We would not be alive!

“… without choline, we couldn’t move, think, sleep, or remember anything.

We would not be alive! ”

Without going into detail, ACh is broken down by enzymes once it carries nerve impulses across synapses. It’s then reassembled later for reuse.
But this breakdown/reassembly system isn’t perfect. ACh gets lost in the process. More ACh needs to be made … from choline. When there’s adequate choline in the blood and brain tissues, ACh gets made.

If there isn’t enough choline, then your brain doesn’t replace the lost ACh. Your brain starts to malfunction. You forget things. It’s harder to make complex decisions. Clear thought becomes more difficult.

But your brain’s self-maintenance system has a trick up its sleeve to help prevent choline shortages

The outside of neurons—the neuron’s cell membrane—is made of a phospholipid called phosphatidylcholine (PC for short). Again, notice the “choline” in the name. That’s because choline is part of the PC molecule making up the outer part of neuron membranes.

What happens when there’s a shortage of choline in the blood and brain tissue? The PC in the neuron membrane starts releasing its choline. You are protected (temporarily at least) from having your brain starved of choline.
If this goes on too long, you’re back to the bleak picture of not having enough choline to synthesize ACh. In addition, your neurons’ membranes are compromised.

When the PC in the membranes loses too much choline, neurons lose integrity. Nerve impulses aren’t transmitted properly. And you lose mental abilities.3

What we’ve just discussed, really, is what happens when your brain ages … or in dementias and even Alzheimer’s. (Although other complex mechanisms are at work in Alzheimer’s as well.)

The hard fact is that—without intervention —choline will decrease in your brain as you get older. 4

Uridine … the missing bridge in boosting brainpower

Where does uridine fit into this tightly balanced scheme of maintenance and repair?

Until recently, researchers focused on choline in trying to understand the biochemistry of memory and cognition. It was felt, with good reason, that administering choline was sufficient to assist the brain’s natural self-maintenance system.

Researchers got excellent results reversing declining cognitive function5 as well as boosting normal function6 with choline. Having found good results, researchers dug deeper.

One of the ways science is advanced is by trial and error. The scientific method dictates that researchers form a hypothesis and test it, discarding negative results and moving forward on positive results.

If you find one compound that helps improve condition X, you might try similar compounds to see how they work. Or if 18 different compounds were found in an assay of brain tissue, you might want to try each of these 18 compounds separately and in combination.


Taking this approach, the top researchers at MIT examined other likely candidates for supporting the brain’s self-maintenance system. Uridine—a compound of the same class as the building blocks of RNA—showed great promise. For example, in one study when uridine was combined with choline and omega-3 DHA (all components of cell membranes), brain levels of PC rose by 45%.7

“… when uridine was combined with choline andomega-3 DHA, brain levels of PC rose by 45%.”

Other research has pointed to the bottom line importance of uridine as well. Studies reported in 2006 and 2007 indicate that uridine works as a kind of bridge between choline and neuron membrane synthesis.

Uridine is a critically necessary component in synthesizing the membrane phospholipid PC. In this process, uridine is first converted to a bioactive form of choline called CDP-choline. CDP-Choline is then synthesized into new PC.8 This new PC is used to repair damaged neuronal membranes and to build new membranes.

Uridine also has been shown to enhance protein synthesis of brain proteins known to exist within the synapse.9 MIT suggests that these findings could indicate that uridine (when administered with the fatty acid DHA) increases the quantity of neuron membrane.

These findings are exciting. MIT’s research has shown that administration of uridine increases the production of neurites and dendrites. These outgrowths from the nerve cell body are a natural part of neuron development.
When a neuron has these outgrowths, it is more likely to make connections with other neurons—not only more connections but more complex connections. Simply stated, the higher number of dendrites, the better cognitive function.

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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.

References

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    Canal, N, et al. Comparison of the effects of pretreatment with choline alfoscerate, idebenone, aniracetam, and placebo on scopalomine-iduced amnesia. Le Basi Razionali della Terapia. 1993;23;:102-7.

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    B. M. Cohen, P. F. Renshaw, A. L. Stoll, R. J. Wurtman, D. Decreased brain choline uptake in older adults. An in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study. JAMA. Vol. 274 No. 11, September 20, 1995.
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    De Bruin NM, Kiliaan AJ, De Wilde MC, Broersen LM. Combined uridine and choline administration improves cognitive deficits in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Volume 80, Issue 1, July 2003, Pages 63-79.
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  7. Wurtman RJ, Ulus IH, Cansev M, et al. Synaptic proteins and phospholipids are increased in gerbil brain by administering uridine plus docosahexaenoic acid orally. Brain Res. 2006 May 9;1088(1):83-92.

  8. Lei Wang, Amy M. Pooler, Meredith A. Albrecht, and Richard J. Wurtman. Dietary Uridine-5’-Monophosphate Supplementation Increases Potassium-Evoked Dopamine Release and Promotes Neurite Outgrowth in Aged Rats. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience. September 2005, Volume 27, Issue 1, pps. 137-146.
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  9. M. Cansev and R. J. Wurtman. Chronic administration of docosahexaenoic acid or eicosapentaenoic acid, but not arachidonic acid, alone or in combination with uridine, increases brain phosphatide and synaptic protein levels in gerbils.Neuroscience 148 (2007) 421–431.
    Abstract


    Richard J. Wurtman, Ismail H. Ulus, Mehmet Cansev, Carol J. Watkins, Lei Wang, George Marzloff. Synaptic proteins and phospholipids are increased in gerbil brain by administering uridine plus docosahexaenoic acid orally. Brain Research, 1088 (2006), 83-92.
    Abstract

  10. Wang, L. , Albrecht, M.A. , Wurtman, R.J. Dietary supplementation with uridine-5′-monophosphate (UMP), a membrane phosphatide precursor, increases acetylcholine level and release in striatum of aged rat. Brain Research. Volume 1133, Issue 1, 16 January 2007, Pages 42-48.

  11. Lei Wang, Amy M. Pooler, Meredith A. Albrecht, and Richard J. Wurtman. Dietary Uridine-5’-Monophosphate Supplementation Increases Potassium-Evoked Dopamine Release and Promotes Neurite Outgrowth in Aged Rats. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience. September 2005, Volume 27, Issue 1, pps. 137-146.

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    Abstract


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  23. Parnetti L, Abate G, Bartorelli L, Cucinotta D, Cuzzupoli M, Maggioni, M, Villardita C, Senin U. Multicentre study of l-alpha-glyceryl-phosphorylcholine vs ST200 among patients with probable senile dementia of Alzheimer’s type. Drugs Aging 1993 Mar-Apr;3(2):159-64.

  24. Parnetti L, Abate G, Bartorelli L, Cucinotta D, Cuzzupoli M, Maggioni, M, Villardita C, Senin U. Multicentre study of l-alpha-glyceryl-phosphorylcholine vs ST200 among patients with probable senile dementia of Alzheimer’s type. Drugs Aging 1993 Mar-Apr;3(2):159-64.

  25. M. Cansev and R. J. Wurtman. Chronic administration of docosahexaenoic acid or eicosapentaenoic acid, but not arachidonic acid, alone or in combination with uridine, increases brain phosphatide and synaptic protein levels in gerbils.Neuroscience 148 (2007) 421–431. 

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