What to Know About Choline

The terms “choline” and “racetams” are frequently used together. This is because choline has many important neurological functions which can often potentiate the effects of racetams. With this said, not all choline sources are the same and using certain types in the wrong way can cause side effects and problems. This article will cover everything you need to know about supplementing choline with nootropic racetams.

Being Adequate vs. Deficient in Choline

An adequate amount of choline can be obtained from a “healthy diet“ alone. Certain foods contain high amounts of choline mostly in the form of Phosphatidylcholine (lecithin). With this said, it is still estimated that around 90% of the population don`t get the recommended amount of choline in their diets alone. Deficiency can be very mild to very severe and the side effects will reflect this.

Choline Deficiency Signs (minor – severe)

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Memory Problems
  • Fatty Liver
  • Kidney Necrosis

Types of Choline

It is true that not all choline sources are created equal. Choline is not a nootropic but a precursor to the nootropic neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine. Pure Acetylcholine conversion is what we want to increase cognitive function. A high amount free bound Acetylcholine mixed with an Acetylcholine receptor stimulator (racetams) will yield the best results in a stack.

The way our bodies utilize and metabolise Acetylcholine, Choline, Phosphatidylcholine and other associated chemicals differ strongly. Choline is commonly used loosely to describe an “Acetylcholine precursor” however there are several different sources with different mechanisms of action. These mechanisms will often decide how efficient the end desired result of higher Acetylcholine levels will be. How the source is converted also seems to relate to common side effects and undesired results.


Choline is found prevalent in certain types of foods. High sources of Phosphatidylcholine are found in meats and dairy. This puts vegans and vegetarians at a high risk of choline deficiency. Read the chart to see an example of choline sources.

Choline Food Chart

Lecithin (Soy Lecithin)

Lecithin is a source of Phosphatidylcholine. Lecithin is commonly derived from soy or egg yolks. It is even less potent than pure Phosphatidylcholine and usually has 2.5% – 9.5% choline. It is the weakest of the choline supplements.


Phosphatidylcholine is a common supplement that can be purchased as a choline source. It is the most common source found in foods but is also the second least efficient of the choline supplements. Phosphatidylcholine only contains 13% choline based on weight.

Choline Salts (Choline Bitartrate)

Choline salts are some of the most commonly used of the choline supplements because they are cheap and effective. Choline Bitartrate is the most common of the choline salts and is often stacked with Racetams. Salt forms of choline are much more pure than Phosphatidylcholine and lecithin and therefore less is needed to get results.

Some people notice some nootropic qualities with choline salts however this is less common than in the much stronger choline intremediates. Choline Salts are the cheapest and most effective choline sources and are great for potentiating the effects of racetam nootropics. Choline Bitartrate and other choline salts seem to lead to headaches. If you are sure the choline salts are causing the problem in your racetam stack discontinue use or switch to another more efficient Acetylcholine intermediate.

Acetylcholine Intermediates (Alpha GPC, CDP Choline)

Alpha GPC and CDP Choline (Citicoline) are both much stronger than Choline salts like Choline Bitartrate. Both are considered nootropic on their own meaning they will both work to facilitate obvious cognitive benefits by themselves (usually). They can also both potentiate the effects of racetam nootropics and can be more effective than choline salts at this. Some people strongly prefer Acetylcholine Intermediates over choline salts and find it adds great value to their stacks while others, find little to no difference. One down side is price, as both supplements are much more expensive than choline salts.

Both Alpha GPC and Citicoline have been shown to provide nootropic value in studies. A great amount of studies have also shown great benefit in Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. The reason Alpha GPC and Citicoline are much stronger than Choline salts are due to the fact that the conversion into Acetylcholine is more efficient. With choline salts, the conversion from choline to Acetylcholine is less efficient. One thing observed by the PeakNootropics research team is less reports of side effects in these supplements. This is hard to explain and there is not much scientific evidence to back this up.

Choline Headaches

This is a very common problem with choline. Most of the time, a choline supplement is stacked with a racetam. If you receive a headache on a racetam(s) without a choline supplement it is likely due to too little choline. In this case, it is recommended to add a choline salt or preferably an Acetylcholine intermediate to help combat these effects.

On the other hand, if you have incorporated a choline source into your racetam stack and are receiving headaches it could be caused by the choline. This seems to be much higher with choline salts. This cannot be explained but seems to happen less frequently with Acetylcholine intermediates. If you do experience headaches on a choline salt/racetam stack try discontinuing the choline and see if the headache goes away after a couple days. This way you can be sure the choline salt is causing the problem. If this is the case, you likely receive enough natural choline through your diet and it is recommended to discontinue choline supplementation