While Helping to Repair Brain Cell Membranes for Long Term Health
- Improve immediate recall, reaction time, and mood
- Protect delicate brain cells and membranes
- Support optimal brain function
- Help counteract cognitive impairment such as: Alzheimer’s disease, brain injuries, stroke, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s disease
GPC: The new choline that enhances cognition in the young, middle-aged, and elderly
We are continually learning about how the brain functions, environmental and dietary factors that contribute to brain aging—and enhancement—and how it’s possible to increase your intelligence and sensory perception beyond the predictors of aging, genetics, and IQ tests.
Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (GPC), a form of choline, is an exciting nutrient recently developed as a cognitive enhancer. But GPC is not the ordinary form of choline we’ve been hearing about (or even taking) for years. GPC is a source of phospholipids (the prime building blocks of life) and choline, which is utilized for phosphatidylcholine biosynthesis in the brain, and for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine—one of the chemicals that enable brain cells to communicate with each other. Although GPC has all the benefits of choline, it is much more effective at increasing acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine production.
Acetylcholine is essential for cognitive function, and is responsible for storing and recalling memories. It is vital for communication between neurons, and in two Italian studies supplementation with GPC indicated an increase in brain function directly related to a healthy supply of acetylcholine.
In the two controlled trials, daily doses of 1200 mg of GPC improved the immediate recall and attention in a group of young adult males (ages 19-38) compared with a placebo.12 In middle-aged and elderly subjects, GPC supplementation improved reaction time by supporting energy generation and electrical coordination in the brain.34
In studies of older patients with vascular dementia, 1200 mg per day of GPC helped improve cognition, as well as emotional state, confusion, and apathy.5
Why is choline important to brain functioning?
Choline is the important B vitamin that fuels tissue renewal and helps build acetylcholine. It is so vital to thought and nerve function that, without it, we couldn’t move, think, sleep or remember anything.
Choline is also responsible for synthesizing phosphatidylcholine (PC), a component of the membrane of every cell in your body, including brain cells. In addition to its role as a structural element in cell membranes, PC acts as a choline reservoir for synthesizing more acetylcholine when needed.6
Because phosphatidylcholine is a common component of cell membranes, it is distributed throughout the body. Also, as we age, choline levels decline and it is unable to get into the brain efficiently.78 For years, lecithin was a popular supplement thought to supply choline, but a review of randomized trials did not find lecithin to be more beneficial than placebo in the treatment of patients with dementia or cognitive impairment.9
GPC is a “next generation” supplement that effectively supplies choline, stimulates membrane repair and benefits cognitive function.
GPC has been proven extremely effective, both in the elderly for brain decline linked to poor circulation and Alzheimer’s disease, and for enhancing mental performance in healthy young adults.
GPC has been shown to:
- Help brain recovery following injury, coma, and surgery
- Improve memory and cognitive performance in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia 10
- Improve memory and learning ability in laboratory animals111213
- Counteract brain aging in rats by increasing cholinergic receptor sites,1415 restoring the bioavailability of acetylcholine,1617 increasing nerve growth factor receptors in the brain,18 and slowing down undesirable structural changes in the brain1920
- Counter the age-related loss of nerve cells and fibers in the brain
- Protect the brain and other organs against toxic waste buildup
- Increase growth hormone secretion in both the young and the old2122
- Support patients recovering from cerebral ischemic attacks23
- Increase the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that plays a major role in Parkinson’s disease2425
How does GPC work?
GPC is water-soluble and after it is ingested it quickly enters the brain, where it protects neurons and improves signal transmission, and supports brain function and learning processes by directly increasing the synthesis and secretion of acetylcholine, as your body needs it. Instead of being a precursor to phosphatidylcholine (PC), GPC is actually a metabolite of PC.
In other words, after phosphatidylcholine is metabolized and stripped of its fatty acids, GPC—a glycerin molecule bound to phosphocholine—is what remains. This is a source of choline in the same form that a cell would obtain from scavenging its own membranes. And this is exactly the form of choline that neurons prefer to use for synthesizing acetylcholine during times of choline scarcity.
Also, GPC is very good at repairing and maintaining brain cell membranes. What most people don’t understand is that a cell membrane is living fluid. If you were able to watch the activity in a cell membrane in real time, it would be like watching a fireworks display with a million things happening at once. Neurotransmitters are released through the membrane, which needs to be instantly repaired. As we age, the mechanism that allows the membrane to be repaired becomes compromised, which is another reason to take GPC as a nutritional supplement.
GPC helps increase growth hormone
The decline of growth hormone (GH) levels as we age is believed to contribute to decreases in bone mass, muscle mass, and strength. The decrease in GH is also associated with age-related cognitive impairment.26 Interestingly, the cholinergic system helps regulate GH through the release of growth hormone-releasing hormone, which in turn triggers secretion of GH from the pituitary gland.27
In one study, in order to learn the effect that GPC had on GH secretion, GH-release hormone (GHRH) was given to young and old human volunteers, with or without the addition of GPC. The younger subjects showed a higher level of GH secretion than the older individuals, and both groups had a greater growth hormone response to the GHRH plus GPC than to GHRH alone. The ability of GPC to increase GH secretion was more pronounced in the older subjects.
The results showed that supplementation with GPC enhances the release of growth hormone (GH),28 indicating that it can help counteract aging in the elderly and help build muscle mass and strength in the young.
GPC and Citicoline: Cutting-edge choline supplements
As you might imagine, the maintenance of membranes requires much more than just a source of choline. GPC appears to be a particularly effective form of choline, but if it were possible to further stimulate the natural process of membrane repair, even greater beneficial effects could be obtained. Scientists have long known that the conversion of choline to a compound called citicoline is an essential step for phospholipid production and membrane repair.
Citicoline occurs naturally in the body and works by supplying cytidine and choline to the cells.
Cytidine (a nucleic acid) helps promote the conversion of choline into membranes, an essential step for cellular function. Choline is also necessary in order to get the full effect of cytidine. Because of this, citicoline was developed as a neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing drug in Europe and Japan. The research on citicoline has found that it is helpful in:
- Brain injury3031
- Neurodegeneration, such as glaucoma32
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Alzheimer’s disease33
- Learning and memory
- Cholinergic stimulation34
Numerous studies on humans and rats have shown that ingestion of citicoline helps reverse age-related changes in the brain. In a study at Harvard Medical School healthy, older subjects who took 500 mg of citicoline for six weeks had an increase of phosphotidylcholine in the brain and improved their scores on the California Verbal Learning Test.35
Another study done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, tested the verbal memory of older volunteers who were given citicoline. In the initial study, a group of 47 women and 48 men, 58-85 years of age, were given 1000 mg of citicoline a day. After three months, the men and women with inefficient memories showed an improvement in delayed recall on logical memory tests. In a crossover study in which the group was given a placebo and a higher dosage of citicoline the results indicated a clear improvement in immediate and delayed logical memory. The study concluded that citicoline may prove effective in treating age-related cognitive decline that may be the precursor of dementia.36
Citicoline converts to uridine
When citicoline is ingested it is broken down into cytidine and choline. The cytidine portion is rapidly converted to uridine. Uridine—another nucleic acid— is the form that is apparently transported in blood37, and cytidine is what is used on a cellular level. It appears that uridine can supercharge the beneficial effects of choline, so the functionality of citicoline can be attributed to uridine.
The latest research shows that supplementation with uridine and GPC provides the optimal source of choline and co-factors for cognitive enhancement, membrane repair, and neuroprotection.
The GPC form of choline is much more effective at increasing blood levels of choline as compared to choline or citicoline.38 Since the combination of uridine and GPC provides the ingredients needed for optimal cell membrane repair, it makes sense to take a nutritional supplement that includes both.
What causes brain aging?
Ten to twelve percent of the brain is composed of lipids,39 which insulate the electrical pathways enabling healthy neurotransmission. These lipids, however, are highly susceptible to oxidative damage. Brain cells are delicate and susceptible to free radical damage from stress, pollutants, drugs, poor diet, inadequate blood supply, alcohol, and other factors.
Additionally, there are three theories that explain why memory and cognitive function diminish over time.
- According to the cholinergic theory, neurological function diminishes when brain cells lose their ability to produce adequate amounts of neurotransmitters. The theory was developed in 1982 when scientists reported that the number of cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain was substantially lower in Alzheimer’s disease patients than in healthy individuals.4041
The decline in numbers and the shriveling in size of these cholinergic cells is partly the result of defective cell membranes caused by a decreased availability of choline and an increased breakdown of phosphatidylcholine.4243444546 When choline is in short supply and cholinergic cells are active, any available choline goes to make more acetylcholine at the expense of building membranes. Eventually, enough choline is withdrawn from the membrane so that the amount of PC in a cell actually decreases, a process known as autocannibalism.47 It is believed that this disruption in normal membrane structure in brain cells is a major cause of brain aging.
- A second theory ties the decline of cognitive function and memory to the actual structure of the brain. Over time, brain cells die, the brain shrinks, and there is a decrease in synaptic density affecting the brain’s capacity to process and store information.
- The membrane hypothesis, which was developed in the late 1970s on the basis of a series of biological experiments, asserts that the lipid composition of cells changes due to the accumulation of cholesterol in cell membranes. Consequently, membrane fluidity decreases, leading to less enzyme activity and a decrease in neurotransmission, which negatively impacts cognitive function.4849
The good news is Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (GPC) and Uridine have been shown to protect and repair delicate brain cells and membranes—and consequently help slow down brain aging, and support memory and cognitive function.
Avoiding the Alzheimer’s epidemic
Losing your mental faculties is one of the greatest fears of the elderly. But because of the alarming rate at which Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are increasing, baby boomers are beginning to worry too—and with good reason.
Approximately 4 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s. In a 1993 national survey, 19 million Americans said they had a family member with the disease, and 37 million said they knew someone with Alzheimer’s. The disease is increasing so fast that experts predict by 2025 more than 22 million people worldwide will be affected unless a cure or prevention is found.50
The only way to avoid the epidemic, research scientists say, is to accelerate the search for a way to delay, prevent, or cure the disease. But “large scale trials are expensive—$15 to $20 million each—and they take at least five years to get results,” says Dr. Steven DeKosky of Pittsburgh, a national leader in Alzheimer research and chair of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Council.51
Since scientists now know that brain cells begin to change at least ten years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear, baby boomers will reach the age of highest risk in about 2010, adds DeKosky. “We do not have enough time left to do these five-year trials one at a time. Scientists have many more good ideas for effective treatments than they can test with current funding,” he says.52
One of the good ideas that is showing positive results for Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia and cognitive problems, and as a general cognitive enhancer is nutritional supplementation with GPC and Uridine.
Although there is much more research to be done into the effects GPC and Uridine on human subjects, the results of studies so far are extremely encouraging. Safe and without side effects, GPC and Uridine are nutritional supplements that provide a superior form of choline to the brain and have been shown to protect cell membranes, enhance cognition by supporting neurotransmitters, and provide an overall anti-aging effect for brain cells.
GPC offers tremendous potential for preventing Alzheimer’s disease, as does citicoline and uridine. Autocannabalism of membrane phosphatidylcholine to make acetylcholine seems to explain the unique vulnerability of cholinergic neurons to age-related decline. It is thought that changes in the cell membrane due to phosphatidylcholine depletion impair normal processing of amyloid precursor protein by the membrane bound proteases. The problem is, once you have Alzheimer’s, you already have massive brain cell loss, which nothing can reverse. So treatment is much more difficult than prevention.
If you or someone you love would like the support of a superb cognitive enhancer, are concerned about the threat of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, or suffer from a brain injury due to accident, illness or stroke, try GPC and Uridine—the “next generation” cognitive enhancers.
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- Alzheimer’s Association
- “Race Against Time: Alzheimer’s Epidemic Hits as America Ages” News Release, 3-27-2000. AlzheimerSupport.com