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Citicoline: food for memory and sight


Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland


CDP-choline is a key intermediate in the cellular biosynthesis of phosphatidylcholine. CDP-choline from exogenous source, named citicoline, was marketed since 1970-s as a nootropic and psychostimulant drug available on prescription. Currently one of its forms, so-called inner salt, has been pronounced a food ingredient suitable for dietary supplements and foods for specific medical purposes. Citicoline is considered a highly bioavailable source of choline, a vitamin-like compound important for brain functions, memory and cognition. Procognitive effects of citicoline may be of particular interest for middle aged and elderly persons suffering from mild memory and cognition impairments, and for stroke survivors. There is also ample evidence that citicoline may slow down the loss of vision in primary open angle glaucoma.


Hippocrates of Kos is considered the father of Western medicine. One of the most famous sayings notoriously attributed to Him (albeit, reportedly, by mistake (1)) is as follows: let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. Whoever coined this statement, it is correct, indeed. Many well known medicines have been obtained from food. The most prominent are vitamins. But the case of citicoline is just the opposite. This is the story of a medicine which, after few decades of being used as a prescription drug, became quite recently a food (see (2) for details).


“Citicoline” is the international non-proprietary name (INN) of cytidine-diphosphocholine (CDP-Choline), a molecule consisting of cytidine moiety and choline moiety connected with pyrophosphate. CDP-Choline is the intermediate in the synthesis of phosphatidylcholine (lecithin), important constituent of all plasma membranes, present in all cells of the human body, and in fact in all cells of any living animal or plant. However, its amount inside the cells is very minute. This means that also in the natural foods the amount of this substance is negligibly small.< ...

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