Alpha GPC – A Smart Nutrient for Brain Health and More

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

April 27, 2020

Alpha GPC – A Smart Nutrient for Brain Health and More
Your brain is a fatty organ, but not because it is lazy and unfit. It is made up of about 60 percent of specialized fatty compounds that give it the “muscle” to survive and thrive. Brain fats are much different than the fat under your skin, or around your belly, hips or thighs. They are specially built compounds that are at the core of brain performance and structure and directly impact every single thought, behavior, function and signal that your brain engages with for your entire life. These fats are crucial for your brain, nerves, cell membranes, and even other parts your entire body.

Fats for the Brain

These essential fatty acids or lipids that your brain is made of include cholesterol, omega-3 DHA, bioactive lipids, sphingolipids, membrane phospholipids, and choline-containing lipids. Each lipid uniquely affects nerve structure, function, and electrical signals or brain circuitry. Choline-containing lipids like alpha-GPC have some remarkable effects in your brain. Not only is this bioactive lipid essential for brain health for life, studies have found it used by tissues throughout your body.

Alpha GPC

Alpha GPC (alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine) is a natural choline containing precursor to the memory and learning neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. This phospholipid is concentrated in nerve cell membranes and is involved with the synthesis and production of acetylcholine. Alpha GPC is easily absorbable and able to cross the blood brain barrier into the brain. Alpha GPC helps rapidly increase acetylcholine production and release into the brain, where it helps transmission of nerve signals that affect learning, memory and mental acuity.

Alpha GPC also provides choline for the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves. The myelin sheath acts as a layer of insulation that helps protect nerves and enhance the speed of nerve signals, like an insulated fiber optic cable. It is considered a popular nootropic or smart nutrient as it helps support cognitive function. Other nootropic nutrients include Fisetin and PhosphatidylSerine.

Supports Memory and Learning Center of Your Brain

Alpha GPC supports neurogenesis, or nerve cell growth, in the hippocampus of your brain. The hippocampus is the main site of learning, memory, spatial navigation, remembering the past and imagining the future, and is part of the “moral brain”. Choline containing lipids are critical for hippocampus function in all ages. Alpha GPC has also been found to be neuroprotective and supportive to other nerve and brain cells. Studies show it is most helpful during convalescent, repair times.

Works Synergistically with Other Brain Nutrients

Alpha GPC works synergistically with other widely respected brain nutrients like r-alpha lipoic acid, acetyl-l-carnitine, omega-3 DHA, and phosphatidylserine in providing brain protection. In one study, healthy aged mice were fed a nutrient poor diet, which caused a major increase in damaging ROS free radicals in the brain. Mice that were supplemented with nutrients despite the poor diet had 57 percent reduction in free radicals and did not experience the same age-related decline in the non-supplemented group. Please keep in mind with this study and others, that a healthy diet is the primal foundation; supplements do not replace a healthy diet.

Alpha GPC along with acetyl-l-carnitine and phosphatidylserine are essential for brain neuroplasticity/remodeling and repair. These same compounds provide critical support for brain and nerve mitochondria, which affects brain energy and repair, function and structure, and the housekeeper cells of the brain - microglial cells.

A Dynamic Duo: Alpha GPC and Omega-3 DHA

When alpha GPC was combined with the natural triglyceride form of omega-3 DHA, cell studies showed a higher DHA concentration in the brain’s cerebral cortex and erythrocytes. The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of the brain that relates to speech, thinking, and memory, along with sight, hearing, smell and sensation. Erythrocytes are red blood cells that contain hemoglobin and transport oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of tissues.

Cell membranes also need good fats like choline and DHA to keep their shape and enable pliability and flexibility. Healthy, flexible cell membranes impact tissue oxygenation and even how insulin and blood sugar work in your brain and throughout all tissues.

Liver Health and Alpha GPC

Besides being an essential component to brain tissues and nerves, other systems and cells use choline and alpha GPC to function. Just like your brain is a fatty organ that depends on choline, so does your liver. Your liver uses choline every day for daily detoxification and the process of methylation

Insufficient dietary intake of choline metabolically stresses the liver. In order for liver and its mitochondria to burn glucose, it needs nutrients like choline and alpha GPC, otherwise the carbohydrates/sugars that you consume turn into fatty deposits in the liver. Mitochondria in the liver use alpha GPC for their activity to burn glucose, which makes energy. Liver cell studies showed that alpha GPC increased function and protection in mitochondria and reduced oxidative stress. Mitochondria are at the heart of cellular energy production and vitality, immune function, and mood.

Impacts Brain and Immune Health for Mother and Child

Adequate choline during pregnancy is critical for neurological development, growth, and weight gain for the baby. Recent research shows that choline is essential for the mother's immune system stability during pregnancy. During and after pregnancy are high-risk times for immune dysregulation that can lead to autoimmune disorders.

A different study looked at the intake of alpha-GPC during breast-feeding in animals. Results showed that it was highly instrumental for offspring’s development and function of immune system T-Cells. Fewer inflammatory reactions and challenges were also found as the animals grew into adulthood.

Tissue Repair and Athletic Performance

Alpha GPC may stimulate growth hormone production, which is helpful for tissue repair and may aid in fat-burning. This was seen in a very small study with young adults. Athletic studies demonstrate a boost for athletic performance. In a small study with college athletes, those who used 250 mg of alpha-GPC compared to placebo had the greatest improvement of athletic measurements linked with maximum velocity and mechanical power.

A recent unique study even found benefit for knee cartilage. In this research, mice that were bred to age fast were given alpha-GPC for brain and antiaging support. The mice experienced an antiaging effect on the brain, but a surprising result was less age-related decline in knee joint cartilage.

Dietary intake of choline in the American adults is poor. 2016 statistics show that only 11 percent of teenagers and adults achieve adequate intake of choline. Individuals who consume primarily a plant-based diet are commonly deficient, as the richest choline sources are found in eggs, beef, chicken, fish, and milk. Plant sources like cruciferous vegetables and some beans provide slightly more than 10 percent of the daily requirement per serving.

Like a collector’s edition Lamborghini luxury sports car that requires meticulous care and high octane gas, your brain is even more precious. Treat your brain to daily dietary and supplemental choline-containing lipids and other essential fats to work and maintain optimal status. You get only one brain for life. Treat and feed it well.

You can find Alpha GPC in Wellness Resources Super Brain Booster.

Additional Resources on Choline/Acetylcholine

Memory Neurotransmitter & Gut Health Linked 

Gut Motility: Fundamentals to Master for Metabolism, Weight Management, and Gut Health

Choline is Essential for Brain, Nerve, and Liver Health

POTS, Chronic Fatigue, and Autoimmune Disorders 

Alpha GPC for Focus, Memory, and Cognitive Ability

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