Forgetting where you put your keys. Walking into a room and having no recollection of why you went in there. Skipping a beat (or two, or three) before remembering someone’s name…
These all-too familiar experiences are par for the course as we get older. Or so we’re told.
But is age-related cognitive decline really an inevitable part of life? Maybe not, if you’re one of the few in the know about nature’s favorite memory preserver — citicoline.
I’ve been recommending citicoline supplements for memory enhancement for years.
This little-known molecule is produced when your body converts choline to phosphatidyl choline. But most people don’t know anything about it.
My patients do, and it’s a good thing they’ve been heeding my advice. Because research just keeps coming that puts citicoline right at the top of the list of must-have brain-health supplements.
Brain protection that gets stronger over time
A 2013 study showed that this memory-booster may be a safe and effective treatment for mild vascular cognitive impairment. (That is, memory decline that’s linked to blood vessel issues — like TIAs, the mini-strokes I told you about in last month’s Logical Health Alternatives.)
Since there are many different types of brain disorders and subsequent memory issues, the types of patients participating in this study are important. In this case, researchers looked at 349 patients from six different regions in Italy.
All of them were older than 64 and had memory complaints, as well as evidence of vascular lesions —
a technical term for blood vessel defects. None of them had probable Alzheimer’s disease.
Yet after nine months of treatment with citicoline, participants showed significantly better memory scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) —
a questionnaire used to assess memory and mood.
Their untreated counterparts didn’t enjoy the same benefit. In fact, those participants showed substantial declines in MMSE scores at the end of the study.
In a nutshell, this study showed that citicoline might be able to put the brakes on at least one type of cognitive decline. And the researchers speculate that the protective effect on patients’ brains should build over time.
The best part is that the study’s participants only had to take 500 mg of citicoline twice a day to reap these rewards — a fairly small dosage.
A growing body of research
This study is hardly the exception. In fact, a recent review of all the literature on citicoline’s role in cognitive health backs up everything I’ve been saying about this supplement for years.
The authors of this review looked at all the studies they could find on the topic. And they came to two key conclusions.
First, whether it’s taken orally or intravenously, citicoline is absorbed and metabolized well in the body. That’s important since oral supplements are much more convenient to take than intravenous infusions. And citicoline is such an essential supplement that we want it to be as accessible as possible.
Second, the review found a number of studies clearly demonstrate citicoline’s effectiveness for treating cognitive impairment.
One of the reasons for citicoline’s brain-preserving capacity, according to the review, may be that it curbs the activity of some of the compounds involved in killing off neurons in the brain. That’s critical, since once neurons are gone, they’re gone. Unlike with cells elsewhere in the body, neurons don’t divide, and for the most part we don’t get new ones when the old ones die off. So hanging onto our neurons as we age is key to preserving our memory and other brain functions.
Can citicoline restore lost brain function?
Another recent study — this one on mice — found that a combination of citicoline and other natural supplements didn’t just preserve cognitive health, it actually restored it.
In the study, aging mice who ate a diet with a variety of added nutrients — including citicoline, vitamin E, folic acid, quercetin, and DHA/PS — learned better and had better memory than those with a standard diet.
What’s more, the supplements seemed to mitigate the brain changes seen with aging.
The authors credit the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the natural compounds for the brain benefits they observed.
Citicoline aids stroke recovery
I mentioned above that research has shown citicoline can help with the memory and mood problems associated with mini-strokes. But a recent study suggests it may be effective for recovery from full-blown stroke, too.
Acute ischemic stroke is recognized as a leading cause of disability and impaired brain function. Stroke sufferers often lose so much cognitive and physical ability that their quality of life is a sliver of what it was pre-stroke. So finding ways to support healing after an acute ischemic stroke is a top priority for brain health researchers.
In this study, stroke victims were assigned to one of two groups six weeks after their first stroke. One group received the normal course of treatment. The other group received regular treatment plus citicoline.
The researchers did a full neuropsychological work-up on the participants after one month, six months, one year, and two years. They also evaluated their quality of life at the two-year follow-up.
What they found should make every doctor add citicoline to his or her stroke recovery plan.
The people who received citicoline had significantly better cognitive function than those who didn’t. And that paid off in terms of quality of life. In fact, advanced age and lack of citicoline were the two factors that posed the biggest risk to quality of life two years after the stroke happened.
The authors concluded by saying that long-term supplementation with citicoline after an acute ischemic stroke is linked to better quality of life and improved cognitive status. And those are the two main goals of stroke treatment.
When will mainstream medicine catch on?
Even after all this compelling research, I’d be willing to bet you haven’t heard a peep from the mainstream medical establishment about citicoline. Have you ever seen a news story about it?
I don’t know about you, but I most certainly didn’t see any of these studies making headlines. But if citicoline were a drug, you can rest assured that you’d hear about it on every media outlet across the globe.
It would be touted as the best thing since sliced bread. (Let’s not go there.) And the powers-that-be would probably be campaigning to have it added to the water supply.
But since Big Pharma hasn’t figured out a way to make an enormous profit from it, you’re just going to have to get your news about citicholine from me.
And that news boils down to this: Citicoline improves both mental performance and mood — and it has few, if any, side effects.
So if you’re concerned with brain health (and you should be), you should start taking it today. I recommend 250 to 1,000 mg per day.
“Effectiveness and safety of citicoline in mild vascular cognitive impairment: the IDEALE study.” Clin Interv Aging. 2013;8:131-7. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S38420. Epub 2013 Feb 5.
“The role of citicoline in cognitive impairment: pharmacological characteristics, possible advantages, and doubts for an old drug with new perspectives.” Clin Interv Aging. 2015;10:1421-1429.
“A unique combination of micronutrients rejuvenates cognitive performance in aged mice.” Behav Brain Res. 2017 Mar 1;320:97-112. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2016.11.019. Epub 2016 Dec 2.
“Long-term treatment with citicoline prevents cognitive decline and predicts a better quality of life after a first ischemic stroke.” Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Mar; 17(3): 390.