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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
Fewer citicoline studies have focused on effects of a low dose in healthy populations, and even fewer have studied potential benefits for younger people-until now.
Past studies have shown that supplementing the diet with citicoline, a precursor to phosphatidylcholine, a major brain phospholipid, both enhances and supports brain functioning and is neuroprotective. Studies indicate that citicoline supplementation can increase dopamine synthesis and influence brain metabolism, improving motor function and attention in aging subjects or subjects who have experienced a stroke, for instance. Fewer citicoline studies have focused on effects of a low dose in healthy populations, and even fewer have studied potential benefits for young people. In a new study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, researchers investigated the cognitive effects of choline supplementation in 75 healthy adolescent males aged 13–18.
The double-blind study administered either a daily placebo or a low (250 mg/day) or high (500 mg/day) dose of Cognizin-brand citicoline to subjects for one month. At the beginning of the study, subjects underwent a battery of cognitive tests, including tests for motor performance and attention; they underwent similar tests at the end of the study.
According to researchers, subjects taking citicoline demonstrated improved motor performance and attention compared to placebo. At the end of the study, citicoline subjects showed significant improvements in the following tests: a Finger Tap Test measuring motor speed and control, the Ruff 2&7 Selection Attention Test for sustained attention and selective attention, and the Computerized Performance Test (Second Edition) measuring sustained attention and impulsivity. Subjects did not demonstrate any adverse side effects from supplementation.
Citicoline’s benefits here may be due to citicoline’s demonstrated positive impact on the brain’s frontal lobe, which is still developing in maturing adolescents. And although dopamine levels weren’t measured in this study, researchers posit that citicoline may have helped to increase dopamine activity in the adolescent males, as it has been shown to do in other studies.
“By demonstrating enhancement effects in healthy adolescent males, our study broadens the literature on citicoline supplementation,” the researchers wrote. “Implications include use of citicoline to treat disorders of attention, as well as to enhance normative attentional functioning in certain groups of adolescents-for example, those at risk for scholastic failure or addiction, as well as those with disorders involving poor attention and impulse control, such as ADHD.”
They also noted that “the current study demonstrates measurable effects in human populations using a relatively small dose of citicoline (250 up to 500 mg/day or up to approximately 6.6 mg/kg for an average adult) compared with amounts commonly used in clinical trials (1000 mg/day or roughly 13.2 mg/kg for an average adult)…”
Cognizin supplier Kyowa Hakko (New York City) funded the study.
Nutritional Outlook magazine
McGlade E et al., “The effect of citicoline supplementation on motor speed and attention in adolescent males,” Journal of Attention Disorders. Published online July 15, 2015.