Finding your purpose isn’t easy.
Take the adventurous protagonist for example—they wish for more, struggle through every rock bottom, fall in and out of love in cringe-worthy romance scenarios, and end up on a completely different path than originally intended. But always, their purpose is found.
This epic tale follows a naturally-occurring compound, cytidinediphosphocholine (also known as cytidine 5’-diphosphocholine, cytidine diphosphate choline, and cytidine diphosphate-choline). But we can just call it CDP choline (or its generic pharmaceutical name: citicoline) for short. We’ll explore CDP choline’s journey through various systems of your body to find its ultimate purpose: to fight for your brain function.
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Supplementing with this compound can increase cognitive function and memory performance, protect the brain from damage and disease, and reduce inflammation.
CDP Choline: Becoming Citicoline
You can find CDP choline in every single cell in your body, especially your brain. It’s a binding of a choline molecule to a cytidine molecule.1
Choline is a molecule best metabolized twice. Both times occur within our cell powerhouses, also known as the mitochondria. First, choline is metabolized by choline oxidase and once more by betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase. The result? Trimethylglycine, which is a plant-based amino acid found in sugar beets, spinach, quinoa, and other nourishing nibbles.2
More importantly, it’s a cofactor in the mandatory mammalian process known as methylation; methylation is when our cells donate methyl groups to other processes of the body. Donating is perhaps too soft of a term for this required action. The recipient processes include synthesizing essential neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.2
You can find choline in foods like eggs, liver, and other meats but you can also purchase choline supplements as well. The National Academy of Sciences designated choline as essential in 1988, suggesting dietary intake.
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Cytidine is a nucleoside molecule formed through a bonding of cytosine to a ribose ring. If that doesn’t ring a bell, consider the word ribose. You know it. In fact, the answer is hiding in your DNA. Give up? Cytidine is a major component of ribonucleic acid (RNA).3
Though not the same as DNA, RNA is still involved in genetics. RNA’s job is to convert the genetic code in your DNA to a more friendly format for protein production.3
It stands to reason that cytidine is found in foods with a high RNA content. Think animal products, especially organ meats. If you need a drink pairing, consider a nice beer to go with it; brewer’s yeast is another great natural source.
Choline + Cytidine
When choline and cytidine are together as CDP choline, they can be found hiding in the foods you’re probably consuming frequently: brain and liver. For non-zombie or non-offal-loving groups, some CDP choline can be synthesized from choline-rich foods such as eggs, poultry, and beef.4 And by egg, we mean the full egg.
While egg whites are a proper protein-rich breakfast food, they do not contain the choline. Only the delicious yolk does.
Like any good main character starved for attention, CDP choline decided it wasn’t present enough through food. This is true—to enjoy the full potential of CDP choline’s brain and body benefits, you’ll need to assist your body’s natural production by supplementing with its chemically identical stunt double, citicoline.5
Citicoline Origin Story
Now a common oral supplement, citicoline was first synthesized in the 1970s in Japan as a prescription-only medication to help stroke patients and those with Parkinson’s disease. It was later prescribed in Europe for a range of cognitive impairments such as memory deficits, which is where its brain-enhancing talents were discovered.5 These talents have shown promise in treating a vast array of neurological conditions, including the aforementioned ischemic stroke and dementia conditions,6 such as age-associated memory impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.7 Citicoline then took its first steps out on the market as a dietary supplement.
Body Armor: Mission in the Bloodstream
Once ingested, citicoline immediately faces an identity crisis. It gets broken down and appears in your bloodstream as two separate chemicals: choline and uridine. The compound won’t see the other side of itself until both parts are reunited in the brain as citicoline once more.8
Until then, citicoline has a job do in your blood.
Free Radical Agent
Citicoline travels vigorously through the body to slay any foes daring to cross its path.
While most of your favorite fictional heroes meander from quest to quest, citicoline moves with purpose throughout the body, squelching the free radicals that attack the brain.
Citicoline becomes an agent of change for another character in the story: glutathione (GSH). Residing in the kingdoms of plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi, glutathione is a very powerful antioxidant.9 It can directly scavenge excess free radicals to protect cells and tissues from oxidative damage.
When a plethora of free radicals roam your body unattended, these unattached oxygen molecules take electrons from lipid cell membranes (also called lipid peroxidation) and trigger inflammation, which accelerates cell deterioration and aging. Worse yet, this damage contributes to the development of the terrifying trifecta of diseases: diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.9
Brain cells and tissues are especially susceptible to oxidative damage because of the brain’s elevated use of oxygen. Citicoline boosts levels of glutathione to hold back the free radical attack on brain cells.10,11 This allows your cells to better protect themselves from future harm as well as assist with making a complete recovery from a brain injury.