This Neuroprotective Compound May Slow Cognitive Decline, New Study Shows
It’s estimated that two out of three Americans1 experience some degree of cognitive impairment by the time they are 70. And not-so-obvious risk factors for poor cognition and brain health are actually measures of heart health, blood vessel (aka vascular) health, and metabolism—like high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes.
Let’s take a closer look.
What is citicoline?
First, we need to understand what choline is. Choline is a naturally occurring compound found in foods (like eggs, fish, soybeans, and beef). And the liver also produces small amounts of choline internally as cytidine-diphosphocholine—or CDP-choline.
Citicoline is the supplemental form of this compound. It’s the same chemical structure, just a different name to clarify the source.
Research shows that citicoline supports the brain by helping to:
- Maintain the integrity of neuronal cell membranes
- Modulate neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine
- Protect against inflammation
Researchers of an in-depth review of the research on citicoline use for people with mild cognitive impairment3 or MCI—an early (but diagnosable) decline in mental abilities—concluded it consistently improved cognitive function, especially if those deficits were related to vascular health.
And this newly published study further supports this established relationship.
Taking citicoline for a year may improve cognition for people with cognitive deficits
Over the course of a year, 81 people with subjective cognitive complaints (SCC) or MCI and vascular risk factors took one gram of citicoline daily. Researchers used a variety of validated tests to assess a person’s cognition at the beginning and end of the study.
At the end of the study, folks with SCC (self-reported feelings of confusion or memory loss) showed significant improvements in language and memory tests.
What’s even more impressive is that 12 people with MCI—which remember is diagnosable cognitive impairment—reverted to SCC at the end because they no longer met the criteria for MCI.
A downside to this study though is that there was no control group (everyone received the supplement). So we don’t know how citicoline compares to no additional cognitive support.
This is another strong study showing how daily citicoline use is beneficial for brain function, especially for people already experiencing signs of memory loss or cognitive decline. Citicoline doesn’t require a prescription and many memory-supporting products contain this compound (here are our favorites). Benefits have been reported with daily use of 500 milligrams to one gram5.
And researchers hypothesize that even longer-term use of this nutrition ingredient is likely linked to even more neuroprotective effects.
Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist and mindbodygreen's supplements editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Texas Christian University and a master’s in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from Tufts University. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts and enjoys connecting people to the food they eat and how it influences health and wellbeing.