Alpha-GPC - An Overview
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What Is Alpha GPC?
Alpha GPC (α-Glycerophosphocholine) is a popular nootropic supplement that can improve memory and learning, boost mood and energy, and prevent cognitive decline.
Alpha GPC is a choline source synthesized from sunflower or soy.
Choline is an essential nutrient that can also be found in food, particularly eggs. It’s required for many basic processes inside cells, and it is critical for proper brain development.
Alpha GPC happens to be a more bioavailable form of choline that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier. 27Zeisel SH. Choline: needed for normal development of memory, J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 28Zeisel SH. Choline and human nutrition Annu Rev Nutr. 1994
Once absorbed by the body, Alpha GPC increases a critical neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (ACh).
Acetylcholine is one of the most abundant neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. It is heavily involved in learning, memory, and emotions. Maintaining proper ACh levels can optimize cognitive function.29Acetylcholine – Wikipedia 30Kawamura T1, Okubo T, Sato K, Fujita S, Goto K, Hamaoka T, Iemitsu M.Glycerophosphocholine enhances growth hormone secretion and fat oxidation in young adults. Nutrition. 2012
Alpha GPC is a common part of nootropic stacks and is often paired with racetams (oxiracetam, aniracetam, etc..). This is because racetams can deplete choline stores. Stacking with a choline source like Alpha GPC can prevent this from happening and synergize the nootropic effects of both substances.
What Does Alpha-GPC Do?
Alpha GPC is used for many different purposes.
Alpha GPC Is Neuroprotective
There is evidence that Alpha GPC has neuroprotective benefits.
Numerous trials show that it can improve overall cognition while preventing cognitive degeneration due to it’s action on the acetylcholine system.1Choline alphoscerate (alpha-glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline) an old choline- containing phospholipid with a still interesting profile as cognition enhancing agent, Centro Ricerche Cliniche, Telemedicina e Telefarmacia Università di Camerino, Via Madonna delle Carceri
A large review of human clinical studies on dementia or hypertensive-related mental decline suggests that Alpha GPC can significantly improve cognitive function compared to control or placebo.2Parnetti L, Amenta F, Gallai V. Choline alphoscerate in cognitive decline and in acute cerebrovascular disease: an analysis of published clinical data, Mech Ageing Dev. 2001
In one small trial of adults suffering from cognitive decline, Alpha GPC “had a significant positive effect on patients’ condition including cognitive function.” Researchers noted an improvement in as little as 5-6 days.3Pizova NV. The use of cereton in patients with chronic brain ischemia and moderate cognitive impairment, Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova. 2014
In rats, Alpha GPC countered the neural damage caused by stroke. Researchers noted that it countered nerve cell loss in the rats that suffered from hypertension.4Tomassoni D, et al. Effect of treatment with choline alphoscerate on hippocampus microanatomy and glial reaction in spontaneously hypertensive rats, Brain Res. 2006
Experimental and clinical studies have documented that Alpha GPC is able to counter the amnesia induced by scopolamine. Scopolamine is an anticholinergic, meaning it stops the flow of ACh in the brain. This action causes memory loss.
Alpha GPC can counter this effect when it is administered, indicating how it can act as a neuroprotectant by its action on ACh.5Schettini G, et al. Molecular mechanisms mediating the effects of L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, a new cognition-enhancing drug, on behavioral and biochemical parameters in young and aged rats, Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1992
Traumatic Brain Injury
It seems that Alpha GPC can even treat traumatic brain injuries.
One study looked at patients who had received serious concussions.
After three months of supplementing with Alpha GPC, 96% of the participants saw significant improvement in cognitive functioning.6Mandat T, et al. Preliminary evaluation of risk and effectiveness of early choline alphoscerate treatment in craniocerebral injury, Neurol Neurochir Pol. 2003
Alpha GPC For Parkinsons Disease
One study looked at the combination of Alpha GPC and piracetam (a common nootropic stack) on patients with Parkinson’s.
Researchers noted that patients with Parkinson’s Disease who were prescribed Alpha GPC in addition to piracetam experienced greater general cognitive status and quality of life than in those just given piracetam.7Levin OS, Batukaeva LA, Anikina MA, Iunishchenko NA. Efficacy and tolerability of choline alphoscerate (cereton) in patients with Parkinson’s disease with cognitive disorders, Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova. 2009
Alpha GPC and Alzheimer’s/Dementia
Alpha GPC seems to be a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s.
There are multiple human studies that implicate choline and acetylcholine dysfunction in this disease.
It appears that by modulating ACh levels, Alpha GPC can treat and even partially reverse some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.8De Jesus Moreno Moreno M. Cognitive improvement in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia after treatment with the acetylcholine precursor choline alfoscerate: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, Clin Ther. 2003 9Parnetti L, et al. Cholinergic precursors in the treatment of cognitive impairment of vascular origin: ineffective approaches or need for re-evaluation, J Neurol Sci. 2007 10Court JA, Perry EK. Neurotransmitter abnormalities in vascular dementia, Int Psychogeriatr. 2003 11Sigala S, et al. L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine antagonizes scopolamine-induced amnesia and enhances hippocampal cholinergic transmission in the rat, Eur J Pharmacol. 1992
Alzheimer’s is also related to growth hormone decline. Alpha GPC can raise levels of growth hormone through its modulation of ACh.
So, it seems that this compound can treat Alzheimer’s through this pathway as well, providing multiple benefits.12Kawamura T, et al. Glycerophosphocholine enhances growth hormone secretion and fat oxidation in young adults, Nutrition. 2012 13Ceda GP, et al. alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine administration increases the GH responses to GHRH of young and elderly subjects, Horm Metab Res. 1992 14Giusti M, et al. Effect of cholinergic tone on growth hormone-releasing hormone-induced secretion of growth hormone in normal aging, Aging (Milano). 1992
Alpha GPC and Memory
Alpha GPC is not only useful for preventing cognitive decline or warding off diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The same mechanism that makes Alpha GPC useful as a neuroprotectant that fights Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can also improve memory in healthy people.
In one study, young volunteers were given either Alpha GPC or a placebo. Then researchers induced temporary amnesia by injecting them with scopolamine, an acetylcholine inhibitor. The volunteers that had taken the Alpha GPC scored significantly better on memory tasks than the control group.15Canal N, et al. Effect of L-alpha-glyceryl-phosphorylcholine on amnesia caused by scopolamine, Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1991
This result is not surprising, considering how important acetylcholine is for memory encoding.
There are also plenty of anecdotal reports of Alpha GPC improving recall. Some users report that this benefit starts kicking in after only a couple of weeks of supplementation.
Physical Performance Benefits
While Alpha GPC has a reputation as a powerful nootropic supplement, it can also improve athletic performance and aid in recovery and muscle building after exercise.16Tim Ziegenfuss, Jamie Landis, Jennifer Hofheins. Acute supplementation with alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine augments growth hormone response to, and peak force production during, resistance exercise, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2008
Two separate studies found that Alpha GPC can increase explosive force production after supplementing for one week.
One study also noted an increase in “psychomotor vigilance,” meaning mind-body coordination. Interestingly, these studies only saw an improvement in lower body force, not in the upper body.
Still, both concluded that this supplement could be useful for strength and power athletes.17Bellar D, LeBlanc NR, Campbell B. The effect of 6 days of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on isometric strength, J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 18Marcus L, et al. Evaluation of the effects of two doses of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on physical and psychomotor performance, J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017
Alpha GPC For Bodybuilding
As we mentioned, one of Alpha GPC’s major benefits include stimulating the production of growth hormone, which is vital for building new muscle.
There is also evidence that it can help burn fat as well.19Kawamura T, et al. Glycerophosphocholine enhances growth hormone secretion and fat oxidation in young adults, Nutrition. 2012
For these reasons, many bodybuilders have added this supplement to their routine. If you live an active lifestyle, Alpha GPC could pull double duty for both mental and physical enhancement.
Alpha GPC For Studying
Alpha GPC could be a very useful study aid for many people due to its wide range of cognitive enhancements. One of the most classic and reliable nootropic stacks is Alpha GPC with a racetam.
This combo is great for focus, attention, memory, and overall mental performance. We highly recommend looking into this stack if you are a student.
Does Alpha GPC Help With Depression?
So far there have not been any studies looking at this specifically.
Generally, depression is thought to affect neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
There is some preliminary evidence that Alpha GPC can increase dopamine levels, but this mechanism is not well understood.20Trabucchi M, Govoni S, Battaini F. Changes in the interaction between CNS cholinergic and dopaminergic neurons induced by L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, a cholinomimetic drug, Farmaco Sci. 1986
Some users report that Alpha GPC can increase mood.
It may be the case that by improving brain function holistically, this nootropic could have a use for treating depression.
Since it affects ACh levels, Alpha GPC has a general effect on most mental processes.
However, more research is needed before we can draw any firm conclusions.
Is Alpha GPC Useful For ADHD?
There is no evidence that Alpha GPC can treat ADHD specifically. However, it does have cognitive benefits for memory that might have a secondary benefit for people with this condition.
It may be useful when stacked with other nootropics that are known to improve ADHD symptoms, such as NALT or l-tyrosine.
How Alpha-GPC Works In The Brain
Alpha GPC is a highly bioavailable form of choline. Research shows that when it is ingested, it is quickly broken down into choline by the gut.21Traini E, Bramanti V, Amenta F. Choline alphoscerate (alpha-glyceryl-phosphoryl-choline) an old choline- containing phospholipid with a still interesting profile as cognition enhancing agent, Curr Alzheimer Res. 2013
Blood concentrations of choline increase rapidly, and this spike helps it cross over into the brain. A dose of this nootropic can have effects for up to 30 hours.22Amenta F, Parnetti L, Gallai V, Wallin A. Treatment of cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease with cholinergic precursors. Ineffective treatments or inappropriate approaches?, Mech Ageing Dev. 2001 23Abbiati G, et al. High-performance liquid chromatographic assay of L-alpha-glycerophosphorylcholine using a two-step enzymic conversion, J Chromatogr. 1991 24Abbiati G, et al. Absorption, tissue distribution and excretion of radiolabelled compounds in rats after administration of [14C]-L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 1993
Once Alpha GPC crosses the blood-brain barrier, it affects cognition through a few different pathways.
Alpha GPC is an acetylcholine (ACh) precursor.
ACh is one of the most pervasive chemical messengers in your brain. By increasing levels of ACh, you can increase the overall transmission of information throughout your brain. This affects most cognitive functions, from memory to mood, to decision making, to executive processing.
Alpha GPC and Phosphatidylcholine
Alpha GPC is also a precursor to a compound called Phosphatidylcholine (PC).
This is a phospholipid that makes up a significant proportion of your brain cells. PC is vital for maintaining and growing neurons.
Taking Alpha GPC means your body has enough choline circulating to build and repair cell walls with PC.
If your PC levels are too low, this can eventually lead to cognitive problems such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Alpha GPC and Your Nervous System
ACh isn’t just used by the brain, but by the whole nervous system which is why it may also help athletic performance.
Research shows it may increase output during resistance training and help recovery afterward. Higher levels of ACh also may increase growth hormone secretion, which can help with muscle growth.25Kawamura T, et al. Glycerophosphocholine enhances growth hormone secretion and fat oxidation in young adults, Nutrition. 2012 26Tim Ziegenfuss, Jamie Landis & Jennifer Hofheins. Acute supplementation with alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine augments growth hormone response to, and peak force production during, resistance exercise, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2008
Alpha-GPC Potential Side Effects
There are very few adverse reactions reported when taken 400mg 3x/day. Most clinical trials report that this nootropic has a very low side-effect profile.
However, some people report occasional issues such as:
- Low mood
- Gastrointestinal issues
These are relatively rare, but discontinue use if you think it is cause problems for you.
There are no known drug interactions.
We strive to bring you the most up to date, research-based information about Alpha-GPC and other nootropics.
Something we missed? Do you use Alpha-GPC? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.