When you think of natural brain-protective remedies – think alpha-GPC. It boosts mental and physical performance, and it releases choline to protect your whole nervous system. This article goes into the crux of alpha-GPC benefits and side effects.

What is Alpha-GPC?

Alpha-GPC (L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine or choline alphoscerate) is a phospholipid essential for brain health. It provides choline for cell membranes and myelin production, and thus nourishes the nervous system [1, 2].

Choline from alpha-GPC also builds acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that maintains your cognitive and muscle functions [2, 3].

Natural sources contain only trace amounts of alpha-GCP, but your body can make it from choline. Foods rich in choline include [4, 5]:

  • Beef liver
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Whole grains
  • Soybean

Supplement manufacturers usually derive alpha-GPC from egg or soy lecithin [6, 7].

CDP-choline vs. Alpha-GPC

Let’s start with the basics. CDP-choline or citicoline is made of choline (with two phosphate groups) and cytidine, while alpha-GPC is made of choline (with one phosphate group) and glycerol. This may sound pretty similar, but it gives rise to some interesting, distinct effects in the body [8].

For one, alpha-GPC raises choline blood levels to a much greater extent than CDP-choline. As a result, it has a more powerful impact on age-related cognitive decline and physical performance.

Secondly, alpha-GPC may stimulate fat burning and growth hormone production, giving it an edge over CDP-choline among bodybuilders [9, 10, 11, 12, 13].

On the other hand, CDP-choline is essential for the production of phosphatidylcholine. It has a broader range of active metabolites and benefits, such as combating mental disorders and drug addiction [14, 15, 16].

Snapshot

PROS

  • Boosts Cognition
  • Supports stroke recovery
  • Enhances athletic performance

CONS

  • May cause headaches and digestive issues
  • May increase irritability

Health Benefits of Alpha-GPC

How It Works

Alpha-GPC supports the whole nervous system by boosting acetylcholine and cholinergic activity. It may also raise the levels of other brain-protective messengers such as [17, 18, 19, 20]:

Plus, as mentioned, it might boost growth hormone levels as well [12, 13].

1) Cognition & Nootropic Effects

Older people often suffer from progressive cognitive decline and memory loss (dementia). The causes range from brain damage to poor blood flow to many others.

Comprehensive reviews looked at the effects of alpha-GPC in over 20 clinical trials and 4K people with dementia.

Each one confirmed alpha-GPC’s potential to shield the brain and prevent cognitive decline, independent of the cause. It also improved attention and memory better than choline or lecithin without any significant side effects [21, 3, 1, 22, 10].

Animal studies voice its brain-protective and nootropic action. In many rat studies, alpha-GPC enhanced mental performance and reduced cognitive problems caused by [23, 24, 25, 26, 27]:

  • Brain damage
  • Poor blood supply
  • Seizures

It saved neurons from dying, stimulated the growth of new ones, and raised the levels of key neurotransmitters.

Alzheimer’s Disease

In Alzheimer’s disease, bundles of mutated proteins kill neurons and deplete acetylcholine, causing an array of cognitive issues [28].

In a clinical trial on 260 patients, alpha-GPC improved all symptoms of  Alzheimer’s disease. In another trial on over 100 patients, it boosted the effects of standard treatment (donepezil) [29, 30].

Parkinson’s Disease

In 60 patients with Parkinson’s disease, alpha-GPC reversed cognitive decline better than a nootropic drug, piracetam (40% vs. 25%). Since researchers injected both drugs, we don’t know if oral use can achieve the same effects [31].

Given the above effects, alpha-GPC might also act as a nootropic in healthy people looking for a cognitive boost. Clinical trials are yet to confirm this, but many users have reported positive results (see “Reviews” below).

Bottom Line

Alpha-GPC can prevent and reverse cognitive issues caused by Alzheimer’s disease, poor brain circulation, and other stressors. It might also boost mental performance in healthy people, but its nootropic effects have yet to be researched.

2) Improves Stroke Recovery

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but alpha-GPC can help even when it’s too late for prevention.

According to a review of 3 clinical trials with 2.5K stroke survivors, alpha-GPC can help recover mental functions. It fixed cognitive damage in up to 70% of the cases [10, 32].

However, these studies lacked placebo controls, so we should wait for stronger clinical evidence.

3) Boosts Athletic Performance

Alpha-GPC has gained popularity among weightlifters, athletes, and bodybuilders due to its supposed ergogenic properties. Research backs them up: alpha-GCP can improve physical performance.

In 2 studies on 61 young men, alpha-GPC (250 – 600 mg) improved speed, power, and pull force. Interestingly, it had stronger effects on the lower body [11, 33].

Lower doses of alpha-GCP (200 mg) enhanced vertical jump power by 8.5% in 22 people [34].

In 7 male volunteers, pre-workout supplementation with alpha-GPC (600 mg) caused a staggering 44X spike in growth hormone (vs. 2.6 placebo). It delivered a 14% higher bench press force but didn’t impact power or recovery [35].

Other trials confirmed that alpha-GPC may boost growth hormone production and fat burning. But its effects on growth hormone were temporary and more pronounced in the elderly [13, 36].

Bottom Line

Alpha-GPC seems to enhance athletic performance in healthy young people. It may stimulate anabolic processes (e.g. muscle building) by boosting growth hormone levels in both the young and old. However, the existing studies had tiny samples and revealed only mild short-term benefits.

4) May Improve Eyesight

Ocular ischemic syndrome occurs when plaque (atherosclerosis) clogs tiny blood vessels in the eye, causing pain and vision loss [37].

In 51 patients with ocular ischemic syndrome, alpha-GPC added to standard therapy [38]:

  • Helped recover the retina
  • Improved blood flow to the eyes
  • Sharpened vision

We need stronger clinical evidence to confirm the benefits of alpha-GPC for eyesight.

5) May Protect Against Radiation

Radiotherapy is a typical part of cancer treatment, but its adverse effects are often severe. This is especially the case with brain radiotherapy. In rats with brain tumors, alpha-GPC decreased brain damage and cognitive impairment caused by radiation [39, 40].

Alpha-GPC also shielded zebrafish embryos against radiation. It blocked chief inflammatory molecules (IL-1B and NF-κB), prevented mutations, and improved survival. In case you didn’t know, zebrafish have many genes in common with humans and are often used in cancer research [41].

Given the current challenges with radiation therapy, we’re hoping clinical trials will investigate alpha-GPC further.

Side Effects & Safety

Alpha-GPC was safe in all clinical trials. In a fraction of patients, it caused mild side effects such as [32, 29, 11, 38]:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Headache

In safety studies on dogs and rats, megadoses (up to 3,000 mg/kg) only slightly reduced the animals’ activity. Researchers concluded that long-term (26 weeks) alpha-GCP consumption of 150 mg/kg (over 10 g daily for adult men) bears no health risks [42].

Due to the lack of safety data, children and pregnant women may want to avoid alpha-GPC.

Dosage & Supplement Forms

In clinical studies, alpha-GPC dosage ranged from 250 to 1,200mg/day. Here’s a breakdown of the dosing regimens:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia: 400 mg, 3X daily for 6 – 12 months [29, 30]
  • Stroke recovery: 1,000 mg daily for 1 month (as injections) [32]
    • 400 mg orally, 3X daily for 5 months afterward
  • Athletic performance: 250 mg daily for 1 week [11]
    • 600 mg daily for 1 – 6 days [35, 33]
  • Eyesight: 400 mg, 2X daily for 2 months [38]

According to anecdotal evidence, the dose for nootropic effects ranges from 400 to 1,200 mg/day. You might want to start on the lower end and track your response.

Supplements

Most alpha-GPC products contain pills with 300 mg of the active component. Vegan pills and alpha-GPC powder are also available.

A supplement called Alpha Brain contains a mixture of alpha-GPC and stimulating herbal extracts, amino acids, and vitamins. However, they don’t state the alpha-PGC content on the label (see its reviews below).

Countless multi-ingredient nootropic supplements exist. The main issue with these products is that it’s often hard to tell what is (or isn’t working).  

Reviews

The elderly take alpha-GPC supplements to improve memory loss and other cognitive issues. Younger people cherish their supposed effects on focus, mental clarity, and physical endurance.

Most alpha-GPC reviews are positive, though some users report no cognitive improvement. The most common side effect is headaches, followed by nausea and heartburn. Some users describe it as too stimulating, especially in higher doses.

“Alpha Brain” has more negative reviews, and many consumers complain about side effects such as severe nausea, trembling, and confusion.

Additional Tips

Some brands produce alpha-GPC from soybean. Read the labels carefully and avoid such products if you have a soy allergy. GMO crops are another potential issue with soy, but many products feature a GMO-free label.

Alpha-GPC is a phospholipid, and you might enhance its absorption by taking it with fatty foods. Studies haven’t confirmed this yet.

Your product might lose potency over time due to alpha-GPC breakdown. It pulls moisture from the environment, so you should pay extra attention to storage conditions. Some users recommend dividing the pills into smaller air-tight bags.

Buy

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Takeaway

Alpha-GPC is a choline-containing supplement that boosts acetylcholine in the brain and protects the nerves. It has proven benefits for age-related cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease. It might also enhance physical performance and act as a nootropic, but the evidence is weaker.

Side effects include mild headaches, digestive issues, and irritability. It’s not safe for children and pregnant women.

You can take alpha-GPC alone or as part of multi-ingredient formulations. We recommend trying it out alone at the researched dosage first to better track your response.

About the Author

Aleksa Ristic, MSc (Pharmacy)

MS (Pharmacy)

Aleksa received his MS in Pharmacy from the University of Belgrade, his master thesis focusing on protein sources in plant-based diets.

 

Aleksa is passionate about herbal pharmacy, nutrition, and functional medicine. He found a way to merge his two biggest passions—writing and health—and use them for noble purposes. His mission is to bridge the gap between science and everyday life, helping readers improve their health and feel better.

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