Choline and inositol are both well-known and highly regarded supplements, and each has significant health benefits in its own right. But taken together they’re a surprisingly powerful nootropic combo that can go a long way toward boosting memory, motivation, focus, and overall cognitive function.
What are nootropics?
Broadly speaking, nootropics are chemicals that enhance cognitive abilities such as memory, focus, motivation, and learning. The word nootropics is generally considered interchangeable with the term “smart drugs,” and indeed most well-known modern nootropic supplements are produced in laboratories with the specific intention of providing a cognitive boost. However there are many potent nootropics that occur naturally in vitamins, herbs and plants, and even in the foods we eat every day.
What is choline?
Choline is a water-soluble nutrient related to the B vitamin family, and it’s crucial for both brain and body. It’s necessary for efficient liver function, and choline deficiency can lead to a fat build-up that may create chronic liver damage and eventual liver failure.
Choline is also essential for optimum brain health and function; it’s the precursor of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter most strongly associated with learning, memory, and cognition in general. Choline deficiency is associated with memory loss, dementia, depression, and other cognitive issues.
Though choline, in the form of lecithin, is present in some foods, including egg yolks, beef liver, cod, salmon, soy products, and peanut butter, supplementation can be helpful in reaching the National Academy of Sciences’ established Adequate Intake levels (550 mg for men, 425 mg for women).
In order to increase choline levels in the brain, there are several choline supplements, such as Alpha GPC, CDP Choline, and centrophenoxine, that your body can utilize as a precursor to producing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Read our guide to choosing a choline source for more information.
What is inositol?
Inositol is a naturally-occurring substance that’s similar to the B vitamin complex and is sometimes referred to as vitamin B8, though it’s not officially recognized as a vitamin. It’s actually a carbohydrate that the body can synthesize from glucose.
Like choline, inositol is essential to both physical and mental function. It’s a primary component of cell membranes, and it’s present in all body tissues. It helps the body break down and metabolize fats, lowers blood cholesterol, and prevents fatty buildup in the liver. Inositol is also crucial to brain function, playing an active role in virtually all brain systems. Because all major neurotransmitters require inositol in order to relay messages, it’s essential to communication between brain cells and thus has a significant impact on mood and cognition.
Food sources of inositol include lecithin derived from soybeans, whole grains, wheatgerm, meat, citrus fruits, nuts, rice and legumes. There is no established Adequate Intake level for inositol, but daily intake for adults has been estimated at between 500 and 1,000 mg.
Effects of Choline Supplementation
Choline supplementation is a must for anyone whose daily diet doesn’t supply the established Adequate Intake of this crucial nutrient. Choline deficiency can lead to kidney necrosis and liver disease, both of which can be successfully treated with choline supplementation. Choline deficiency is also very serious in terms of brain function, resulting in diminished cognitive abilities.
For people taking powerful modern nootropics such as aniracetam, Noopept, etc., supplementation with high-quality choline is particularly important. These nootropics work in large part by upregulating the brain’s production of acetylcholine, and this makes a powerful draw on the body’s stores of choline. If there isn’t enough choline available for conversion to acetylcholine, nootropics like the racetams will be far less effective. Adding high quality choline to any nootropic stack will help maximize cognitive enhancement, and supplemental high quality choline can also eliminate the mild but persistent “racetam headache” that some users experience.
Choline supplementation has been proven to have significant nootropic properties of its own, ranging from better memory retention and recall to enhanced learning ability, more efficient thought and verbal processing, and increased concentration and focus. It can also act as a mood booster and has been used in the treatment of anxiety, depression and related disorders.
Effects of Inositol Supplementation
Since there is no established Adequate Intake for inositol, it’s difficult to determine when the body’s supplies are deficient. However, research has shown that some conditions, such as long-term antibiotic use or excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine, can deplete inositol stores. Suboptimal levels of inositol can negatively impact brain function, and memory loss may be an indication of inositol deficiency.
Supplemental inositol is used in the treatment of a number of physical conditions and disorders, including psoriasis, high cholesterol, hair loss, and diabetic nerve pain, as well as a range of cognition and mood-related conditions. Because inositol helps regulate levels of serotonin in the brain and has been proven to have substantial calming effects, it acts as a natural anti-anxiety remedy and has been successfully used in the treatment of panic attacks, depression, ADHD and OCD, and PMS/PMDD.
Inositol supplementation is typically associated with a variety of cognitive enhancements, ranging from better mood to improved sleep, increased attention span, and better learning and retention.
The Synergy Between Choline and Inositol
Though choline and inositol are both important supplements in their own right and each provides many physical and mental benefits, there’s a powerful synergy between them that makes them far more effective when they’re taken together.
The complimentary actions of choline and inositol promote the body’s production of phosphatidylcholine or lecithin, a naturally-occurring substance present in plant and animal cells. Lecithin is essential for nutrient emulsification and absorption and it helps transport fats or lipids through the bloodstream. It’s also a primary component of cellular membranes and is important to creating cellular strength and structure.
The choline-inositol-lecithin connection is unique in that it works both ways when it comes to production: the body uses choline and inositol to synthesize lecithin, but it can also operate in reverse, metabolizing choline from lecithin. Because choline is the precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, sometimes referred to as “the learning neurotransmitter,” keeping plentiful stores of lecithin from which choline can be synthesized is important for memory, focus, and all aspects of cognitive function.
Choline and Inositol
Taken together, choline and inositol are an unbeatable nootropic team. The combination of the two not only promotes cell health and helps transport lipids through the bloodstream, together they provide the body with fuel from which choline can be metabolized. This in turn ensures that the brain has plenty of raw material from which to synthesize acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter most strongly associated with cognitive enhancement.
Summing it All Up
The combination of choline and inositol is excellent for physical health and hard to beat from the perspective of cognitive enhancement. Both have substantial nootropic properties that are significant on their own, but which become even more powerful when the two are taken in combination. They’re affordable, readily available wherever supplements are sold, and extremely safe and well tolerated. Choline and inositol are truly a dynamic duo that can be a powerful and potentiating addition to any nootropic stack.
We recommend NOW Foods Choline and Inositol capsules as a high-quality source of choline and inositol to boost your brain’s power.
Planning to start a new supplementation regimen? See our medical disclaimer.