What Is The Best Choline Source?

What Is The Best Choline Source?

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter known to play a role in memory, movement, and learning. It is one of a few key neurotransmitters that nootropics commonly affect. Some nootropics change the way acetylcholine works in the brain, while others increase acetylcholine levels. In this post, we’re going to be comparing nootropics that increase acetylcholine levels.

The nootropics we’re going to look at all provide choline, a substance the body uses to create acetylcholine. The question is, what is the best choline source? But before we answer this question, let’s examine what choline and acetylcholine are.

What Is Choline?

Though not technically a vitamin, choline is an essential nutrient with vitamin-like properties. While our bodies do produce some choline, they don’t produce enough to meet our needs and must get it from food. Dietary sources of choline include meat, eggs, fish, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, peanuts, and dairy products.

Choline has a number of functions in the human body. One of its most important functions is as a precursor for other molecules. Precursors are compounds our bodies use to create other substances. One of the substances our bodies create from choline is acetylcholine.

What Is Acetylcholine?

This is a neurotransmitter that our bodies create from choline. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers the nervous system uses to communicate. Examples of other neurotransmitters include serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and glutamate.

Acetylcholine is found in both the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). In the CNS, acetylcholine is known to play a role in learning and memory. It has also been shown to affect wakefulness and to help maintain attention.

Nootropic Choline Sources

Lots of different nootropics have been shown to affect acetylcholine levels in the brain. By increasing levels of this neurotransmitter, choline-boosting nootropics can improve memory, learning, and attention. Now let’s take a look at some specific choline sources.

1. Alpha-GPC

This is a choline compound found naturally in the brain that can also be taken in supplement form as a nootropic. When taken as a nootropic, alpha-GPC (aka choline alfoscerate, choline aphoscerate, or L-alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine) is able to quickly cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and be converted into acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine molecule

Alpha-GPC has been granted GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means the FDA looked over the research that has been done on alpha-GPC and determined it is safe for human consumption.

Studies show that alpha-GPC is able to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain and that it does so to a greater extent than (at least some) other choline sources. While alpha-GPC’s nootropic properties are still being studied, the research that has been done is encouraging.

A scientific paper published in 1991 looked at the effect alpha-GPC had on young, healthy volunteers. The researchers found that alpha-GPC significantly improved memory and attention in people given scopolamine, a drug known to cause memory impairment. A similar study done on rats published a year later gave the same results.

Several alpha-GPC studies have been done on elderly populations with cognitive impairment. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in 2003 found that alpha-GPC significantly improved the cognitive symptoms of dementia disorders, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. A 2001 review that looked at the results of 13 clinical trials done on alpha-GPC found it to significantly improve memory and attention in a variety of conditions.

There is plenty of science to support alpha-GPC’s use as a choline-boosting nootropic. And it’s designation as GRAS makes it an attractive choice for a lot of people. Alpha-GPC is one of my two favorite choline sources. The other is the next on this list.

2. CDP-Choline

This is another popular choline source. CDP-choline (aka cytidine diphosphate-choline, citicoline or cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine) is naturally found in the body and can be taken in supplement form. Like alpha-GPC, CDP-choline has been shown to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain.

Human brain

However, CDP-choline doesn’t boost acetylcholine levels quite as much as alpha-GPC. But acetylcholine isn’t the only neurotransmitter that CDP-choline affects. In addition to acetylcholine, CDP-choline also boosts dopamine and norepinephrine levels in certain parts of the brain.

Dopamine is known to play a role in a number of cognitive functions including motivation, reward, motor control, and more. Many different nootropics affect dopamine in one way or another. And norepinephrine is known to play a role in arousal, alertness, and reaction time.

Several studies have shown that CDP-choline has a nootropic effect. A 2012 study looked at the effect CDP-choline had on healthy women. This study found that CDP-choline improved attentional performance. A 1997 study looked at the effect CDP-choline had on elderly volunteers with memory deficits. This study found that CDP-choline significantly improved word recall and other aspects of memory. Additionally, CDP-choline has been found to be neuroprotective.

As mentioned earlier, alpha-GPC and CDP-choline are my two go-to choline sources. However, if I had to pick just one, it would be CDP-choline. I’ve found it to improve focus and attention when taken daily. And it stacks well with lots of other nootropics, especially the racetams.

3. Choline Bitartrate

This is a popular form of choline that is combined with tartaric acid. By binding choline to tartaric acid, it increases bioavailability. Choline bitartrate is popular with nootropic users on a budget, as it is usually cheaper than alpha-GPC and CDP-choline.

Like alpha-GPC and CDP-choline, choline bitartrate increases acetylcholine levels in the brain. However, it does so to a lesser extent than either of them.


Studies show that choline bitartrate, when taken daily, can improve the neurological health of normal individuals and maybe even prevent cognitive disorders later in life. A single dose of choline bitartrate, however, doesn’t affect memory. A 2016 double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at the effect a single dose of choline bitartrate had on healthy, young volunteers. This study found that a single dose of choline bitartrate did not improve memory.

In other words, to experience the nootropic benefits of choline bitartrate, it must be taken daily. While a single dose of alpha-GPC or CDP-choline may have some nootropic benefit, they too work best when taken daily.

I’ve never taken choline bitartrate on its own, so I can’t personally speak to its effectiveness. However, I’ve taken nootropic products that had choline bitartrate in them. It seems that choline bitartrate would be best for someone who wants to increase acetylcholine levels without spending a lot of money.

4. Other Choline Sources

Though alpha-GPC, CDP-choline, and choline bitartrate are the most common choline sources, there are others. Like choline bitartrate, some are choline combined with another substance to increase bioavailability. One example would be choline citrate, which is choline combined with citrate, an ester of citric acid.

And then there are substances that aren’t actual choline themselves, but do increase choline levels in the body. One example would be lecithin. This is an essential fat that contains phosphatidycholines and has been shown to increase choline levels in the body.

What Is The Best Choline Source?

Ultimately, the best choline source is probably food. A diet rich in meats and dairy should provide plenty of choline for optimal brain health. But what about the choline sources discussed in this article?

Choline foods

Like with all nootropics, it comes down to figuring out what works best for you. Some people prefer alpha-GPC to CDP-choline. Others, like myself, find that CDP-choline provides more nootropic benefits. The only way to know for sure which is best for you is to try them yourself.

If you’re on a tight budget, choline bitartrate might be the way to go. It’s cheaper than alpha-GPC or CDP-choline, but doesn’t boost choline levels quite as much. If you can afford spending a few extra dollars, I’d go with either alpha-GPC or CDP-choline.

Personally, I get more of a nootropic effect from CDP-choline. When taken daily, I’ve found it helps me feel more alert and focused. This likely has to do with CDP-choline’s ability to influence dopamine and norepinephrine.

If you’re looking for the choline source with the greatest overall nootropic effect, it’s probably going to be CDP-choline. However, if you are looking for the choline source that boosts acetylcholine levels the most, alpha-GPC is the way to go.

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