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Dear Pharmacist: Are there supplements for brain disorders?

Dear Pharmacist: On Facebook, you mentioned this supplement called Citicoline for memory, and it interests me because my mother has Alzheimer's and my wife had a mild stroke. Would it help? -- J.L., Newark, N.J.

I think so. Very few people have heard of "Citicoline" which is sold as a dietary supplement known scientifically as "cytidine 5' diphosphocholine" or "CDP Choline."

Citicoline could help many brain disorders. Researchers are currently evaluating it's effect on stroke patients, plus it's ability to reduce free fatty acid build up which occurs at the site of the stroke; very hard to fix that with drugs, but citicoline might.

Citicoline's most beautiful feature is that it can help you make phospholipids, which encase every brain cell. Without a healthy cell membrane, your skull would hold one giant glob, and you'd have the IQ of a worm, so anything that helps you make phospholipids, improves brain function. Citicoline donates "choline" to make two important phospholipids called "phosphatidylcholine" and "phosphatidylserine." Both of those are sold over-the-counter too. Citicoline also helps you make the memory molecule called "acetylcholine." Low levels of acetylcholine and you might be told you have Alzheimer's disease. To that end, citicoline blocks beta-amyloid deposition, another kink in the brain tied to Alzheimer's disease. What about Parkinson's? In fact, citicoline slightly raises dopamine levels, giving more hope to those afflicted with Parkinson's disease.

The effects of nourishing your brain with these brain-loving compounds can't be bad. In fact, I think after 6 weeks of supplementation (with either citicoline. phosphatidylserine or phosphatidylcholine), you might see improvement in memory, problem solving, mood, tremors, mental clarity and orientation. I'm not promising, I'm just thinking out loud and shining a flashlight into a dark room in case you have been told there's no more time or "there's nothing more we can do for you."

Citicoline may also help stroke patients. Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States, and each year, about 795,000 people suffer one. Ask your neurologist to look up studies on pubmed that show cytidine 5' diphosphocholine to prevent "neuronal cell death" (brain decay), and increase "sphingomyelin" while simultaneously reducing the neurotoxin "arachidonic acid." This is huge to a recovering person and hard to accomplish with medication alone. Early intervention is key.

A 2006 study from Barcelona, Spain, concluded "Citicoline has also been shown to be effective in Parkinson's disease, drug addictions, and alcoholism, as well as in amblyopia and glaucoma. No serious side effects have occurred . . ."

The three supplements I've shared have promise for many of you. Some contain soy, a common allergen, so read labels carefully. Also, be patient, optimal effects take two or three months and most importantly, get your physician's approval, especially if you take blood thinners, antihypertensives, psychostimulants or antidepressants.

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure your disease. Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. To ask her a question or to learn more about your health, visit

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