When it comes to improving memory and learning, recent research suggests that alpha GPC may be extremely beneficial. That’s because A-GPC works to deliver choline to the brain, stimulating an important neurotransmitter that promotes cognitive health.
Studies suggest that alpha GPC is one of the best nootropic brain supplements on the market. It’s a brain-boosting molecule that has proven to be safe and well tolerated by elderly patients who are looking to improve symptoms of dementia as well as young athletes who are hoping to boost their physical endurance and power.
Similar to the brain-boosting benefits of phosphatidylserine, a-GPC serves as a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and can work to slow down age-related cognitive decline. (1)
What Is Alpha GPC?
Alpha GPC, or alpha glycerylphosphoryl choline, is a molecule that serves as a source of choline. It’s a fatty acid found in soy lecithin and other plants, and it’s used to make supplements for cognitive health and improved muscle strength.
Alpha GPC, which is also referred to as choline alfoscerate, is valued for its ability to deliver choline to the brain and help the body to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is responsible for many of choline’s health benefits. Acetylcholine is involved in learning and memory, plus it’s known to be one of the most important neurotransmitters for muscle contraction.
A-GPC is able to cross the blood-brain-barrier, unlike choline bitartrate, another popular choline supplement on the market. This is what enables its promising effects on the brain and why it’s used for the treatment of dementia disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. (2)
Benefits and Uses
1. Improves Memory Impairment
Alpha GPC is used to improve memory, learning and thinking skills. It does this by increasing acetylcholine in the brain, a chemical that plays an important role in memory and learning functions. Researchers indicate that alpha GPC shows promise in improving cognitive symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. (3)
A 2003 double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled trial published in Clinical Therapeutics assessed the efficacy and tolerability of alpha GPC in the treatment of cognitive impairment due to mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s. Patients were treated with 400-milligram capsules of a-GPC or placebo capsules three times daily for 180 days. All patients were assessed at the beginning of the trial, after 90 days of treatment and at the end of the trial after 180 days.
In the alpha GPC group, all assessed parameters, including the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale for cognition and behavior, and the Mini-Mental State Examination, consistently improved after 90 and 180 days of treatment, whereas in the placebo group they remained unchanged or worsened.
Researchers concluded that a-GPC is clinically useful and well-tolerated in the treatment of the cognitive symptoms of dementia disorders, and has potential as an Alzheimer’s natural treatment. (4)
2. Boosts Learning and Focus
There’s plenty of research supporting alpha GPC’s benefits for people with cognitive impairments, but what about its efficacy in people who don’t suffer from dementia? Studies show that alpha GPC can boost focus, memory and learning in young, healthy adults, too.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a cohort study involving dementia-free participants found that higher choline intake was related to better cognitive performance. Areas of cognition that were assessed include verbal memory, visual memory, verbal learning and executive function. (5)
And a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that alpha GPC supplementation was beneficial for certain physical and mental performance tasks when used by young adults. Serial Subtraction Test scores were 18 percent faster in those receiving 400 milligrams of a-GPC compared to those receiving 200 milligrams of caffeine. Plus, the group consuming caffeine had significantly higher scores for jitteriness compared to those in the alpha GPC group. (6)
3. Improves Athletic Performance
Studies support the ergogenic properties of alpha GPC. For this reason, athletes are becoming more and more interested in a-GPC for its potential ability to improve stamina, power output and muscle strength. Supplementing with a-GPC is known to help improve physical strength, encourage the building of lean muscle mass and shorten recovery time after workouts.
Studies suggest that alpha GPC elevates human growth hormone, which plays a role in cell regeneration, growth and maintaining healthy human tissue. Growth hormone is known for its ability to improve physical capacity and exercise performance.
There have been a number of studies assessing the efficacy of alpha GPC on physical endurance and power. A 2008 randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study involving seven men with resistance training experience indicates that a-GPC does indeed affect growth hormone levels. Participants in the experimental group with given 600 milligrams of alpha GPC 90 minutes prior to resistance exercise.
Researchers found that compared to baseline, peak growth hormone levels increased 44-fold after alpha GPC use, compared to 2.6-fold after using the placebo.A-GPC use also increased physical force, with peak bench press force being 14 percent greater compared to placebo. (7)
Beyond increasing muscle strength and physical force, growth hormone is also known to enhance weight loss, strengthen bones, boost mood and improve sleep quality.
4. Improves Recovery from Stroke
Early research suggests that a-GPC may be beneficial for patients after they have suffered from a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (called a “mini stroke”). This is due to alpha GPC’s ability to work as a neuroprotective agent and support neuroplasticity through nerve growth factor receptors. (8)
In a 1994 study, researchers in Italy found that alpha GPC improves the cognitive recovery of patients with acute stroke or mini-stroke. After suffering from a stroke, patients received an injection of 1,000 milligrams of alpha GPC for 28 days, and then 400 milligrams three times a day by mouth for the following 5 months.
Researchers reported that at the end of the trial, 71 percent of patients displayed no cognitive decline or forgetfulness. Also, patient scores for the Mini Mental State Test improved significantly. In addition to these findings, there was a low percentage of adverse events after using alpha GPC and researchers confirmed its excellent tolerability. (9)
5. May Benefit Epilepsy Patients
A 2017 animal study published in Brain Research sought to evaluate the effect of alpha GPC treatment on cognitive impairment following an epileptic seizure. Researchers found that when rats were injected with a-GPC three weeks after induced seizures, the compound improved cognitive function and increased neurogenesis, which is the growth of nervous tissue.
This study suggests that alpha GPC may be useful for patients with epilepsy because of its neuroprotective effects, and it can potentially ameliorate seizure-induced cognitive impairment and neuronal injury. (10)
Alpha GPC and Choline
Choline is an essential micronutrient that’s needed for many body processes, especially brain function. It’s needed for the proper functioning of the key neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which acts as an anti-aging neurotransmitter and helps our nerves to communicate.
Although the body makes a small amount of choline on its own, we must obtain the nutrient from food sources. Some foods high in choline include beef liver, salmon, chickpeas, eggs and chicken breast. However, some reports show that the choline found in food sources isn’t properly absorbed by the body, which is why some people suffer from a choline deficiency. This is because choline is processed partially in the liver and people with liver dysfunction won’t be able to absorb it.
That’s where alpha GPC supplements come into play. Some experts recommend using choline supplements like a-GPC to boost brain function and help retain memory.It’s believed that alpha GPC, and CDP choline, is the most beneficial for the body because they closely mimic the way that choline is found naturally in foods. Like choline that’s naturally absorbed by the foods we eat, alpha GPC is known for its ability to cross the blood-brain-barrier when it is ingested, helping the body to convert the choline into the very important neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Alpha GPC is a potent type of choline. A 1,000-milligram dose of a-GPC is equivalent to about 400 milligrams of dietary choline. Or, in other words, alpha GPC is about 40 percent choline by weight.
A-GPC vs. CDP Choline
CDP choline, which is also known as cytidine diphosphocholine and citicoline, is a compound that’s made up of choline and cytidine. CDP choline is known for its ability to help transport dopamine in the brain. Like alpha GPC, citicoline is valued for its ability to cross the blood-brain-barrier when ingested, which allows for its memory-boosting and cognitive-enhancing effects. (11)
While alpha GPC contains about 40 percent choline by weight, CDP choline contains about 18 percent choline. But CDP choline also contains cytidine, which is a precursor to the nucleotide uridine. Uridine is known for its ability to increase the synthesis of cellular membranes, and it, too, has cognitive-enhancing properties. (12)
Both a-GPC and CDP choline are known for their cognitive benefits, including their role in supporting memory, mental performance and focus.
Where to Find and How to Use
In the U.S., alpha GPC is available as a dietary supplement that’s taken by mouth. It’s easy to find alpha GPC supplements online or in vitamin stores. You’ll find it in capsule and powder forms. Many products containing a-GPC recommend taking the supplement with food for it to be most effective.
A-GPC supplements are most commonly used to improve memory and cognitive performance. It can also be used to boost physical endurance and performance.
Most alpha GPC supplements are derived from soy, so people with a soy allergy should not consume them without checking the label carefully.
A-GPC is known to be hygroscopic, which means that it pulls moisture in from the surrounding air. For this reason, supplements need to be stored in an air-tight container and shouldn’t be exposed to the air for a long period of time.
Supplements and Dosage Recommendations
The standard dosage of a-GPC varies depending on the health benefits that you are looking to achieve. Alpha GPC products commonly recommend between 200 milligrams and 600 milligrams per day.
To improve physical endurance and power, the most common dosage used in studies involving healthy athletes was 600 milligrams taken 90 minutes prior to physical activity or training. (13)
Studies measuring the benefits of alpha GPC for improving cognitive function suggest that higher doses of 1,200 milligrams per day, divided into three doses, may be effective for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s advised to start with the lowest possible effective dose of alpha GPC supplements and build gradually if needed.
Risks and Side Effects
Alpha GPC supplements are generally recognized as safe and well tolerated for healthy adults, but side effects may occur in some cases. Possible a-GPC side effects include fatigue, nausea, headaches, upset stomach, diarrhea, heartburn and nervousness. And some individuals experience low blood pressure and lightheadedness after ingesting alpha GPC.
It may be dangerous to take high doses of alpha GPC, so make sure to stick to the recommended dosage to avoid adverse side effects.
It’s important to note that many a-GPC supplements are derived from soy lecithin. Soy lecithin is a controversial substance that’s added to many processed and packed foods. Some people experience negative reactions to consuming soy products, like nausea, bloating, upset stomach and rashes on the skin. When choosing an alpha GPC supplement, opt for products that are made from organic fermented soy when possible.
There’s not enough research to support the safety of a-GPC supplements for women who are pregnant or nursing, so as of now it should be avoided in these cases.
- Alpha GPC is used to deliver choline to the brain across the blood-brain barrier. It serves as a precursor of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that promotes cognitive health.
- Alpha GPC supplements can be used to benefit your cognitive health by improving memory, learning and focus. Research also shows that a-GPC works to boost physical stamina and increase muscle strength.
- The standard recommended dosage for alpha GPC supplements is between 200 and 600 milligrams per day, although studies on Alzheimer’s show that doses as high as 1,200 milligrams per day can be effective and well-tolerated.