November 29, 2022 7 min read

As you dive into the world of nootropics, you’ll probably find lots of talk about choline, Alpha-GPC, and “cholinergic,” or a class of substances that help to raise brain choline levels and support healthy cognitive function.

However, you’ll often incorrectly see people comparing choline vs Alpha-GPC, but that’s not an accurate representation of the cholinergic market. Rather, Alpha-GPC is a type of choline supplement that should be compared to the other major choline supplements on the market–Choline Bitartrate and Citicoline.

So, to help you better understand which cholinergic supplement makes the best nootropic supplement stack, we’ll help you better understand choline supplements as a whole and break down the differences between Alpha-GPC vs Choline Bitartrate vs Citicoline. Let’s jump in:

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Table of Contents
Why Take Choline Supplements?
Alpha-GPC
Cholne Bitartrate
Citicoline
Alpha-GPC vs Choline Bitartrate vs Citicoline
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Alpha-GPC is just a form of choline supplement, so to try to compare the two is incorrect.
  • Instead, you should look at the three main forms of choline supplements, each of which have a different bioavailability, dosage, and range of effects.
  • Alpha-GPC is one of the most bioavailable and heavily researched forms of choline
  • In general, choline supplements may perform better when paired with other nootropics.
A bottle of small, white choline supplements spilled onto the table

Why Take Choline Supplements (Cholinergics)?

As we mentioned, the point in a cholinergic supplement, regardless of whether you choose Alpha-GPC or another choline supplement, is to raise the choline levels in the brain. Choline is an essential nutrient needed for the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a few key roles within the central and autonomic nervous systems.

More specifically, acetylcholine regulates executive function, a process necessary for learning, information processing, and working memory. Lack of acetylcholine can make it hard to focus and recall information–hence why choline supplements are usually considered nootropics, meaning they enhance cognitive functions.

However, most sources of dietary choline, like organ meats and eggs, are not only scarcely bioavailable, but they aren’t heavily consumed. It’s difficult to get enough choline from your daily diet, especially if you don’t regularly eat eggs or organ proteins.

So, dietary supplements are the next best option–as long as you get one with a good bioavailability rate. That’s where the debate between different forms of choline–Alpha-GPC vs Choline Bitartrate vs Citicoline–comes in. Let’s break down the difference:

Alpha-GPC

Alpha-GPC is becoming the most popular form of supplemental choline. Not only is it one of the most popular forms of choline used on its own, but it's often the most popular form used in nootropic stacks. There are many reasons for this. First, Alpha-GPC is a highly bioavailable form of choline. It’s also one of the most heavily researched choline supplements (in fact, alpha-GPC is sold as a prescription drug for managing Alzheimer’s disease in some other countries). Plus, the potential benefits associated with Alpha-GPC supplementation are diverse and the supplement is relatively affordable.

Benefits

Some of the main benefits associated with Alpha-GPC supplementation include:

  • Improved focus
  • Increased information processing speed
  • Improved working memory
  • Improved athletic endurance and recovery
  • Reduced brain fog

Some areas of research interest include:

Dosage

Most of the choline supplements on the market actually have a relatively low choline content. The actual choline content of Alpha-GPC, by weight, is around 40%. That means that you are ingesting 40 mg of choline for every 100 mg of Alpha-GPC you take. That means that you’ll probably need to take less Alpha-GPC than other choline supplements to experience optimum effects.

There’s no one off suggested dosage for Alpha-GPC, and you should be willing to work with your health care provider to figure out the best dosage for yourself. In clinical studies, the typical dosage used ranges from 250 mg to 1,200 mg per day. An average dose is around 400-600 mg per day.

Choline Bitartrate

Choline Bitartrate is another form of choline, but it’s not quite as bioavailable as Alpha-GPC. Still, used correctly, Choline Bitartrate can be a useful supplement for delivering choline to the brain, which can still broadly enhance cognitive function.

Benefits

The main benefits associated with Choline Bitartrate are very similar to Alpha-GPC’s benefits and may include include:

  • Improved focus
  • Increased information processing speed
  • Improved decision making skills
  • Improved mind-body connection

If Choline Bitartrate is effective at increasing brain choline levels, it may help to improve regular cognitive functions and protect the brain from cognitive decline as we age. Although Choline Bitartrate is a less potent form of choline supplement, there have been a few other studies involving large doses of this cholinergic with positive results, though there isn’t as much evidence in this area as there is for Alpha-GPC supplementation.

One of the primary areas of studies involve pregnant women with a choline deficiency. In some studies, choline bitartrate supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in their babies.

However, Choline Bitartrate supplementation has not always proven itself useful. For instance, in one human study participants were found to show no notable improvement compared to the placebo group in memory or cognitive performance after taking 2 grams of Choline Bitartrate.

Dosage

Because it is a less potent form of choline, dose sizes for Choline Bitartrate are much larger than the dose sizes for Alpha-GPC. In most cases, people need to take at least 600 mg a day to see results, and the average dose may even be as high as 1,500 mg per day.

In order to mimic the choline content of Alpha-GPC, you’d need to take Choline Bitartrate doses as high as 3,000 milligrams, which would significantly increase the chance of adverse effects.

Citicoline

Citicoline (cytidine diphosphocholine) is another form of choline supplement that is highly bioavailable and can more directly compare to the benefits of Alpha-GPC. Some sources even claim that Citicoline is the best form of choline supplementation, but there’s really no clinical evidence to back up this claim. Still, this cholinergic is capable of improving cognitive function by increasing the production and transport of major neurotransmitters.

Like Alpha-GPC, Citicoline is very bioavailable and may have benefits at much smaller doses than those used for Choline Bitartrate. Still, Citicoline is a bit more expensive and has been researched to a lesser degree than alpha-GPC.

Benefits

Citicoline is also usually linked to memory and brain function benefits. More specifically, it may be best at helping to reduce the effects of memory loss in people as they age. It may also have a good impact on a person’s ability to focus, plus significant potential for reducing neuronal death as we age.

Just like other choline supplements, the potential benefits associates with Citicoline may include:

  • Improved cognitive function
  • Improved focus
  • Improved memory
  • Neuroprotective effects

One systematic review of Citicoline’s effects found that it “has been proven to be a useful compound in preventing dementia progression…enhances cognitive functions among healthy individuals and improves prognosis after stroke.” The same review suggests that animal studies have found that Citicoline can have a significant benefit on the regeneration of nerves in neuropathy models and that Citicoline could reduce nerve pain.

Dosage

Citicoline is a potent form of choline, meaning that the dose sizes are more similar to that of Alpha-GPC. Of course, in research, doses between 250 milligrams and 2,000 milligrams have been used. Still, doses between 250 milligrams and 400 milligrams may be used daily with positive effects.

A person holding a single choline supplement in the form of alpha-gpc

Alpha-GPC vs Choline Bitartrate vs Citicoline: Which is Best?

Now that we’ve cleared up that there’s more to the question than choline vs Alpha-GPC, there’s a more important question to consider–which form of choline is best?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always simple. If you’re just booking to boost your choline intake to experience general health benefits, any form of choline will do, assuming the supplement is well-made and high-quality.

Of course, if you are very concerned with the cognitive benefits you can get from a high-quality choline supplement, you’ll want the best form of choline possible. For now, Alpha-GPC and Citicoline are tied in terms of potency/dosage. Still, Alpha-GPC is more heavily researched and is the form available in many nootropic blends.

It’s important to point out that no matter what form of choline supplement you choose, it may perform better when paired with other nootropic compounds, like Lion’s Mane, Reishi, L-Theanine, L-Tyrosine, or other brain-boosting supplements.

You may also want to read:

Resources

  1. “The cholinergic approach for the treatment of vascular dementia: evidence from pre-clinical and clinical studieshttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12450245/
  2. “Cholinergic precursors in the treatment of cognitive impairment of vascular origin: ineffective approaches or need for re-evaluation?” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17331541/
  3. “Choline alphoscerate (alpha-glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline) an old choline- containing phospholipid with a still interesting profile as cognition enhancing agent” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24156263/
  4. “Alzheimer's disease” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181599/
  5. “Cognitive improvement in mild to moderate Alzheimer's dementia after treatment with the acetylcholine precursor choline alfoscerate: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12637119/
  6. “The ASCOMALVA (Association between the Cholinesterase Inhibitor Donepezil and the Cholinergic Precursor Choline Alphoscerate in Alzheimer's Disease) Trial: interim results after two years of treatment” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24898643/
  7. “Acute supplementation with alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine augments growth hormone response to, and peak force production during, resistance exercise” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3313098/
  8. “Glycerophosphocholine enhances growth hormone secretion and fat oxidation in young adults” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22673596/
  9. “The effect of 6 days of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on isometric strength” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4650143/
  10. “Evaluation of the effects of two doses of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on physical and psychomotor performance” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5629791/
  11. “alpha-Glycerophosphocholine in the mental recovery of cerebral ischemic attacks. An Italian multicenter clinical trial” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8030842/
  12. “Choline alphoscerate in cognitive decline and in acute cerebrovascular disease: an analysis of published clinical data” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11589921/
  13. “Glycerophosphocholine enhances growth hormone secretion and fat oxidation in young adults” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22673596/
  14. “Cancer and Radiation Therapy: Current Advances and Future Directions” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3298009/
  15. “Radio-neuroprotective effect of L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine (GPC) in an experimental rat model” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24880750/
  16. “Maternal choline concentrations during pregnancy and choline-related genetic variants as risk factors for neural tube defects”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4163794/
  17. “No Acute Effects of Choline Bitartrate Food Supplements on Memory in Healthy, Young, Human Adults” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27341028/
  18. “Application of Citicoline in Neurological Disorders: A Systematic Review” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7601330/

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