On the Cutting Edge of Memory Enhancement and Alzheimer’s Treatment With A-GPC
Have you heard of A-GPC? If you or a loved one isn’t dealing with Alzheimer’s, you might not have heard about this supplement—but it’s giving Alzheimer’s patients and their caretakers a little more hope. A-GPC—which is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States and prescription medication (administered either by mouth or in a shot) in Europe—may be able to enhance cognitive function and memory.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder with a degenerative effect on brain cells, causing cognitive decline, as well as behavioral and social skills. Alzheimer’s is estimated to affect over 5.5 million Americans age 65 or older. The disease starts with repeating questions and losing words, and declines to delusions, hallucinations and total loss of communication. It is irreversible, and sufferers lose the ability to function independently, which means that even temporarily halting cognitive decline is a boon to patients and caretakers.
Could this be the miracle drug Alzheimer’s patients and their families have been waiting for? Researchers are hopeful—but A-GPC needs more research before it can be guaranteed as a medication. Currently, results are promising in tests performed upon rodents, but human clinical trials have not yet begun. As the search for a cure progresses, we can expect that we’ll see a lot more about A-GPC in the news. But what is it, how does it work, and is it safe?
What is A-GPC?
Alpha-glycerophosphocholine, or A-GPC, is a supplement that contains choline. Choline is “a molecule mostly used for either its cognitive boosting properties (turning into acetylcholine, the learning neurotransmitter) or as a liver health agent, able to reduce fatty liver buildup.” It can be naturally found in many foods, particularly eggs, chicken, soybeans, whole grains and beef liver, but the supplement offers higher concentrations.
Acetylcholine is key to memory and learning functions, so the hypothesis is that the more A-GPC present in one’s system, the more acetylcholine will be produced, therefore improving cognitive function.
A-GPC may also boost GABA, dopamine, serotonin and inositol phosphate levels in the brain, which help protect the brain. It may also boost growth hormone levels. The supplement is FDA-approved for help in slowing cognitive decline.
Today’s promising nootropic for Alzheimer’s treatment
While still in the research phases, A-GPC is thought to “temporarily halt or slow cognitive, functional, and behavioral decline.” This supplement is best for those in mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease; it “has shown promise in improving cognitive symptoms related to [Alzheimer’s disease], vascular dementia, and multi-infarct dementia.”
Alzheimer’s disease causes cognitive decline when “bundles of mutated proteins kill neurons and deplete acetylcholine.” By increasing the amount of acetylcholine in the system, the brain is able to temporarily halt the decline.
Incidentally, those with choline-rich diets throughout one’s lifetime are less likely to experience cognitive decline over time, which may indicate that the cumulative effect is an important factor in choline’s efficacy.
Ultimately, to make definitive claims about A-GPC’s efficacy as a supplement, studies need to follow people’s decline in cognitive ability over time. The current studies conducted did not, and due to the nature of the studies, it will be years before we may see conclusive proof.
Beyond memory, A-GPC is worth exploring
Beyond treatment for Alzheimer’s, many healthy adults are turning to nootropics (drugs thought to improve memory and cognitive function) as a way to further improve their memory and improve focus. From people who want to do better on their exams to adults who want to prevent dementia before any symptoms are present, it’s an idea that’s gaining in popularity. Doctors, however, are skeptical, suggesting that brain function is too complex to simply boost with a supplement.
In addition, it’s gaining popularity with athletes as an ergogenic, or a drug meant to enhance physical stamina or capability. Studies conducted showed that users improved their speed, power and pull force, as well as their vertical jump power. It also gave an improvement of 14% in bench pressing, but not speed or force. It may also promote growth hormone and fat burning. All effects are temporary in nature, however: When the athlete stopped using the supplement, the effects dwindled.
A-GPC is linked to stroke recovery and eyesight improvement as well, although the evidence is insufficient to support this claim. The studies conducted lacked a control group, so more proof is required before doctors can definitively claim that it helps.
As researchers continue to investigate A-GPC, it’s clear that it is a promising new discovery for many reasons.