Recently, a new food ingredient, L-α-glycerophosphocholine (abbreviated as α-GPC), which is currently open for public opinion, has come into our view. It has a very close relationship with the well-known acetylcholine.
In terms of structure, α-GPC is a choline compound formed by the combination of a phosphate group and a glycerol molecule, a choline-containing phospholipid. Its molecular formula is C8H20NO6P, with a high choline content of approximately 40%. This means that 1000 milligrams of α-GPC can produce about 400 milligrams of free choline.
Choline is an essential nutrient commonly found in dairy products and eggs, helping cells maintain cell membranes. Choline itself is also necessary for the production of acetylcholine. While α-GPC and other choline sources like phosphatidylcholine and lecithin can promote the production of acetylcholine, α-GPC is particularly effective because the lipids it provides make cells more easily absorbable. Over 90% of phosphatidylcholine is absorbed by lymphatic vessels, while α-GPC is mostly absorbed by the portal vein, resulting in higher absorption efficiency and more effectively promoting acetylcholine production. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating brain function and muscle control. Although we can obtain choline through food, the amount of acetylcholine decreases with age.
α-GPC has been proven to increase acetylcholine levels, especially in the frontal cortex of the brain. The brain cortex has various functions, including mechanisms necessary for controlling motor function and attention management. In addition to supporting brain health, α-GPC can enhance cognitive function, improve physical performance, and stimulate growth hormone secretion.
α-GPC can improve cognitive function and has good tolerance, playing a significant role in improving psychological function, the nervous system, and memory. In a 12-week randomized, double-blind, same-dose comparison study of α-GPC and oxiracetam (a commonly used drug for treating cognitive function disorders) in men aged 55-65 with organic brain syndrome, both were well-tolerated, with no patients discontinuing treatment due to adverse reactions. Oxiracetam was effective quickly but lost its effect rapidly after treatment cessation, while α-GPC, although slower to take effect, had a more enduring effect, with clinical results consistent between the 8-week treatment period and 8 weeks after treatment cessation. Based on years of clinical experience abroad, α-GPC has shown good effects in treating cranial injuries and dementia, with minimal side effects. In Europe, the drug “Gliation” for Alzheimer’s disease has α-GPC as its main active ingredient.
An animal study found that α-GPC can reduce neuron death and support the blood-brain barrier, suggesting that this supplement may help improve cognitive function in epilepsy patients.
Another study involving young, healthy volunteers found that supplementing with α-GPC can improve memory and attention. Participants taking α-GPC showed better information recall, as well as higher levels of attention and alertness.
Research suggests that supplementing with α-GPC may help improve exercise performance and strength. In a 2016 study, college-aged men took 600 mg of α-GPC or a placebo daily for 6 days. Their performance in mid-thigh pulling force was tested before and 1 week after the dosage period. The study indicated that α-GPC could increase mid-thigh pulling force, supporting the idea that this ingredient helps enhance lower body strength. Another double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study involved 14 male university rugby players aged 20 to 21. Participants took α-GPC supplements 1 hour before a series of exercises, including vertical jumps, isometric exercises, and muscle contractions. The study found that supplementing with α-GPC before exercise might help improve lifting speed and reduce exercise-related fatigue. Due to its association with muscle strength and endurance, many studies have demonstrated that α-GPC can provide explosive force output, power, and agility.
Research shows that α-GPC can increase the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, thereby increasing the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is essential for overall health in both children and adults. In children, HGH is responsible for increasing height by promoting the growth of bones and cartilage. For adults, HGH can help promote bone health by increasing bone density and support muscle growth by enhancing muscle mass. It is well known that HGH can also improve athletic performance, although direct injection of HGH has been banned in many sports.
In 2008, an industry-funded study analyzed the effects of α-GPC on resistance training. Using a randomized, double-blind approach, seven young men with weight training experience took 600 mg of α-GPC or a placebo 90 minutes before training. After Smith machine squats, their resting metabolic rate (RMR) and respiratory exchange ratio (RER) were tested. Each participant then performed 3 sets of bench press throws to measure their strength and explosive power. Researchers found a significant increase in peak growth hormone levels, and bench press strength increased by 14%.
In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study conducted at Kyoto University in Japan, researchers injected a single dose of α-GPC into a group of men with an average age of 25, observing changes in serum choline, human growth hormone (HGH), and markers of fat oxidation, free fatty acids (FFA), and ketones. They concluded that a single oral dose of α-GPC increased plasma free choline levels, accompanied by increased HGH secretion, FFA, and ketone levels.
These findings suggest that a single dose of α-GPC may increase HGH secretion within the normal range and enhance fat oxidation in young people. Since HGH is produced in large quantities during sleep, supporting the body’s repair and regeneration, it may also play a role in female beauty. DHC’s beauty supplement Briller Extra Up contains α-GPC, and there is also a nutritional supplement called FROM SEED PLUS, which features α-GPC as the main ingredient, claiming to be a nutrient needed for both children and adults.
α-GPC seems to enhance the absorption of non-heme iron in food, similar to the role of vitamin C when the ratio with iron is 2:1. Therefore, α-GPC is considered, or at least contributes to, the phenomenon of enhancing the absorption of non-heme iron in meat products. Additionally, supplementing with α-GPC can help in the fat-burning process and support lipid metabolism due to the role of choline as a lipophilic nutrient. The healthy levels of this nutrient ensure that cellular mitochondria can utilize fatty acids, converting them into ATP or energy.
In the United States, α-GPC is used as a dietary supplement; the European Union classifies it as a food supplement; in Canada, it is categorized as a natural health product and regulated by Health Canada; in Australia, it is classified as a supplementary medicine; and in Japan, α-GPC has been approved as a new food ingredient. It is believed that in the near future, α-GPC will officially become a member of new food ingredients. (Source: FTA_21FOOD)