CDP-Choline: Benefits, Side Effects and More

Last Updated: April 14, 2022

Overview | The Best CDP-Choline Supplements | How it works | Benefits | Dietary Sources | Side Effects | How to take | Buyers Guide | The Bottom Line

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Overview

CDP-Choline is a nootropic that helps to maintain cognitive health and improve mental performance.

CDP-Choline also goes by the names 5′-Cytidine diphosphate, citicoline, cytidine diphosphate-choline or cytidine 5-Diphosphocholine. CDP-Choline increases choline and uridine levels in your body to improve cell membrane health.

CDP-choline vs Citicoline

CDP-choline and citicoline are identical in structure and refer to the same compound.

However citicoline is the name when it is ingested, or when it is taken as a medication.

CDP-Choline refers to the molecule that is produced by the body [x].

The Best CDP-Choline Supplement

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CDP-Choline or Citicoline is also known by its brand name Cognizin.

When to take: Take during meals anytime in the day. CDP-Choline is not a stimulant so it has limited effect on sleep/wake cycles.

How much to take:

Nerve Health: 1600 mg daily for 2 months improved eye vision by repairing nerve damage

Aging: 2000 mg strengthened nerve membranes in the brain and improved brain circulation

Focus: 250-500 mg has been shown to lead to improved focus and mental clarity

In the body

When ingested, CDP-Choline enhances choline, cytidine and phosphatidylcholine levels.

Phosphatidylcholine makes up part of your neuron’s cell membrane and is formed from uridine which is metabolised via cytidine in your body [1].

CDP-Choline has been shown to treat memory degeneration associated with aging by boosting neuroprotective molecules in your brain that repair neurons.

CDP-choline vs Alpha-GPC

Alpha-GPC and CDP-choline both provide choline and therefore have similar health benefits. However Alpha-GPC contains no uridine which is necessary to synthesise phosphatidylcholine and is also responsible for cell membrane health.  In the latest research, CDP-Choline further differs from Alpha-GPC as it has been linked to Sirtuin1 expression which has ramifications for our longevity [2][3].

Benefits

1. May reduce cravings (food, alcohol & cocaine)

CDP-Choline may lead to reduced cravings. In healthy persons, 2000mg of CDP-Choline taken for 6 weeks led to a 27% reduction in appetite however this did not result in weight loss [4].

The mechanism underlying this appears to be due to increased activity in the amygdala, insula and lateral orbitofrontal cortex in response to food cues. However it is not well understood and is merely a correlated effect.

CDP-Choline can result in a minor reduction in cocaine cravings in dependent individuals [5][6]. This effect was also observed in alcohol-dependent individuals [7].

2. May promote attention and performance

CDP-Choline can result in improved performance when undergoing a cognitive task.

Low dosages appear to be mentally beneficial, whilst higher doses have more physical benefit.

In healthy women aged 40-60 given CDP-choline of 250-500mg for 28 days, supplementation at 250mg and 500mg was able to reduce errors in a continual performance test.

A continual performance test evaluates inattentiveness, impulsivity, sustained attention, and vigilance.

Whilst all doses were effective,  250mg appeared to be marginally more beneficial for cognition [8].

3. May reduce pain

All the studies of CDP-Choline supplementation examining pain sensitivity use injections as a delivery method.

However, it is LIKELY that oral supplementation of choline can similarly reduce pain sensitivity.

When choline reaches the brain, activation of choline receptors releases opioid peptides. This increases pain tolerance. This analgesic effect is dose-dependent.

The effects on pain tolerance are secondarily increased in response to activation of the nicotinic receptors.

4. Boosts acetylcholine in the brain

The neurotransmitter acetylcholine affects mood, memory and focus.

A deficiency in this neurotransmitter has been correlated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and MS.

Due to CDP-Choline containing both choline and uridine, it boosts acetylcholine via two pathways.

As choline is a building block of acetylcholine, CDP-choline can boost choline levels in the brain through a primary pathway [9]. In animal studies injections of CDP-Choline have shown increases in extracellular acetylcholine at doses of 100mg/kg [10].

In addition to choline, CDP-Choline contains uridine, so it can increase acetylcholine levels through another pathway. When isolated, uridine has been shown to increase acetylcholine levels in animal studies [11]. The mechanism is not well understood, however it is thought choline levels rise as uridine increases brain phosphatide levels.

5. May improve stroke recovery

CDP-Choline may help to maintain brain stability and health. This is especially true in those with damaged brain function.

CDP-Choline taken at the onset of stroke is able to confer protective effects by reducing the size of infarction, stimulate growth factors and SIRT1 [12][2].

CDP-Choline has been shown to confer protective benefits to the brain in the form of memory preservation following stroke [10].

However the evidence is mixed. In people with traumatic brain injury, who were placed on CDP-Choline for 90 days, there was no cognitive or functional benefit.

CDP-Choline led to an increase in phosphocreatine concentrations at dosages of 500mg [13]. Adequate levels of Phosphocreatine are necessary to maintain ATP levels in the brain. Following brain trauma, phosphocreatine levels fall, along with magnesium and high energy phosphates.

6. Improves visual acuity in glaucoma patients

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases where damage to the optic nerve results in vision loss or impairment. Those suffering from glaucoma have symptoms of a loss of peripheral or side vision, seeing halos around bright objects or lights, and vision loss.

In those suffering from glaucoma, CDP-Choline appears to be somewhat protective of vision and has been linked to improvements in visual acuity [14].

The mechanism for this improvement is not due to changing eye pressure, as CDP-Choline has no effect on intraocular pressure [15][16].

7. May increase dopamine

CDP-Choline can boost our levels of dopamine significantly.

The reason for this is likely due to the uridine present in CDP-choline [17]. This results in increased levels of dopamine transporter and by therefore the amount of dopamine released from neurons.

In those with neurological damage, CDP-Choline confers neuroprotective benefits as it ameliorates declines in dopamine secretion. The benefits are more related to the uridine component of CDP-Choline rather than the choline component.

Those taking Alpha-GPC can benefit from supplementing CDP-Choline, as uridine is not present in Alpha-GPC.

Dietary Sources

The dietary sources of choline include:

  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Mushrooms
  • Beef
  • Soybeans
  • Chicken
  • Cauliflower
  • Almonds
  • Lima beans
  • Red potatoes
  • Kidney beans
  • Quinoa

Safety

CDP-Choline is considered safe when taken at standard dosages (400-2000 mg) per day for up to 90 days.

Side effects are rare but manifest as nausea, vomiting, headaches and stomach upset.

These side effects are rare however you should consult your healthcare provider prior to supplementation or if you experience issues.

Dosage

Standard dosages are 400-2000 mg per day. In studies, this dose is typically met in two divided doses (200-1000 mg) which are to be separated by 8 or more hours.

The benefits for attention enhancement exclusively or more strongly correlates to the lower dosage of 400-2000 mg.

To suppress cravings, higher dosages work better [18].

In studies, 1000-2000 mg is used for memory decline in older adults.

Buyers Guide

CDP-Choline is sold in tablet form.

Typical single doses are 250-500mg. This would mean 1-2 tablets a day to meet the recommended dose.

Cognizin is a patented form of CDP-Choline that is highly recommended.

When purchasing, check the ingredients list to determine if Cognizin is present.

The bottom line

CDP-Choline has tremendous benefits for our brain.

Boosting dopamine, improving celullar health and exerting physical benefits, CDP-Choline is recommended for those looking to improve their mood and exercise performance.

CDP-Choline is relatively inexpensive and is highly promising for head trauma, bodily health and general cognition.