I stumbled upon choline and piracetam on my quest to learn about brain supplements because of their potential to enhance learning and memory. After learning about a nootropic called piracetam, I have heard repeatedly that piracetam works much better when paired with choline. Some of the information on choline has been a bit contradictory so this is my attempt to understand the risks and benefits of taking choline with piracetam.
First of all, Choline, considered a B vitamin, is one of the rare substances that can cross the blood brain barrier. It helps maintain healthy synapses and membranes in the brain which tend to deteriorate with age. It’s also needed to form phosphatidylcholine, the main phospholipid of cell membranes. When extracellular supplies of choline are inadequate, these membranes can be drawn upon to supply the choline needed to produce more acetylcholine.
Choline is the precursor for acetylcholine, the chemical neurotransmitter (or fuel) necessary for learning and memory support. The way I understand it is that piracetam increases the usage of acetycholine in the brain and therefore, people taking piracetam use up choline at a much faster rate, because it has to keep replacing the acetylcholine that is lost by all that extra brain activity you are doing…
How Does the Body use Choline to Improve Brain Function?
Choline has many purported uses. It may be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, but some studies are controversial. It may help reduce anxiety, and it may be especially beneficial for those with memory problems. Some evidence suggests an association between low levels of choline and anxiety, but taking too much may backfire leading to depression. While no toxicity issues are currently known, that does not mean choline supplementation is without side effects (these are discussed in more detail below).
A really old study from the early 1980’s demonstrated behavioral memory benefits for rats given 100 mg/kg each of piracetam and choline over taking only one supplement by itself. Doing it like that (this is for research purposes only, not an endorsement), a 150 lb human lab rat (68 kg) would be given 68kgx100mg=or approximately 6,800 mg each of piracetam and choline…But today, we also know that the Tolerable Upper Intake level of choline, for adults, has been set at 3.5 grams (3,500 mg) per day. Above 3,500 mg, adverse side effects may include low blood pressure, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, sweating, fishy body odor, blood thinning, and depression. So, in other words, taking the amount of choline that was given to the rats in the 1980s would be a bad idea because it is almost twice as much as the upper limit set for choline intake.
To put this into perspective, a large egg contains about 112 mg of choline. According to that, you would have to consume more than 31 eggs to reach the upper limit, (or 1 pound 13 ounces of beef liver…which is rather a lot I’ve been told…) so if you are overdosing on choline, it is probably from over supplementation rather than food sources. And if you are depressed, don’t take it out on the chicken.
But…because the quantities of choline found in foods tend to be so minimal and because cooking can even destroy choline, I think supplementation is probably a good idea, but that gets us back to the question:
HOW MUCH CHOLINE SHOULD I TAKE WITH PIRACETAM?
Answering that question has proved a challenge. I read that lecithin, although a source of choline, does not contain very much of it – you would need to take more than a cup?!?! That seems like a ridiculously high amount. Sometimes after taking just a teaspoon of lecithin with piracetam I would get a really tired heavy feeling in the head, but would usually feel better after a nap. But who knows, maybe I just wasn’t getting enough choline.
I’ve also read many different testimonial claims about what works for people on an individual basis when it comes to supplementing choline and it’s important to remember that individual requirements vary, but brain fog and headaches when taking piracetam is likely an indication that you are not getting your choline needs met. According to Quick Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements by Helen Pensanti M.D., a usual dose of choline should be between 200-500mg/day. However, that implies normal usage, which does not take into account the additional needs of a brain on piracetam, so, 800-1600 mg of choline is probably a better estimate range, and still safely below the upper intake limit of 3,500 mg/day.
Another option which I am seriously considering is to take alpha GPC at 500 mg/day instead. It is a little more spendy, but stronger so you can take less. Alpha GPC is derived from highly purified soy lecithin and is a natural source of choline rapidly delivered to the brain. Some trial studies have already demonstrated statistically significant cognitive recovery for those suffering impairments after taking alpha GPC for 6 months. The usual dose of alpha GPC is between 300-1,200 mg/day according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha-GPC.
Would you try a simple 5 minute a day brain exercise that could improve your memory, grades or even income?
In this free video Gary Busey (sorry not the actor) chief researcher at Altius Life Labs shows a little brain trick that can double your short term memory capacity. We think if you combine this memory booster with your daily nootropic regimen the sky’s the limit. Of course results may vary and all that but take a look at the vid, try the simple exercise and let us know how it works for you.