Last Updated: September 28 2022

Alpha-glycerophosphocholine (alpha-GPC or α-GPC) is a cholinergic compound that is used for cognitive-enhancement, and to increase power output in athletes. It appears to also support cellular membranes, and may help prevent cognitive decline.

Alpha-GPC is most often used for

What is alpha-GPC?

Alpha-GPC (alpha-glycerophosphocholine or choline alphoscerate) is a choline-containing phospholipid. When ingested, alpha-GPC is metabolized into choline and glycerol-1-phosphate. Choline is a precursor of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory, attention, and skeletal muscle contraction. Glycerol-1-phosphate is used to support cellular membranes.[1]

Alpha-GPC appears to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and is rapidly absorbed. It is currently the best cholinergic for increasing plasma and brain choline levels.[2]

What are alpha-GPC’s main benefits?

Oral supplementation of alpha-GPC is primarily of interest for nootropic or cognitive-enhancement purposes. There are a number of rodent studies that support this effect, but it has yet to be shown in otherwise healthy humans. In older adults with mild to moderate dementia — which involves disrupted cholinergic neurotransmission — alpha-GPC improves cognitive symptoms (e.g., memory and attention impairment).[3][1] Alpha-GPC may also improve the effectiveness of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (i.e., drugs that increase acetylcholine availability by slowing down its breakdown), which are used for treating Alzheimer’s disease.[3]

Athletes are another population that may benefit from alpha-GPC supplementation. Preliminary evidence suggests that alpha-GPC increases vertical jump power.[4][5] Additionally, a pilot study reported that alpha-GPC increased peak bench press force, but not peak power or rate of force development.[6] Whether alpha-GPC increases isometric strength is currently unclear.[5][7]

What are alpha-GPC’s main drawbacks?

Alpha-GPC is generally well tolerated. Serious side effects have not been reported in human trials at a dosage of 1,200 mg per day for six months.[8] The No Observed Adverse Effect Level is 150 mg per kg of body weight per day.

Recently, concerns have been raised about the potential of alpha-GPC to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) because it serves as a substrate for the synthesis of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) in the gut, and TMAO is associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes in people with CVD and in mechanistic studies.[9]

A 2021 cohort study of more than 12 million participants (at least 50 years old), including 108,877 alpha-GPC users, reported that alpha-GPC use for at least 12 months was associated with an increased risk of stroke over 10 years.[10] Moreover, a 2021 mouse study found that alpha-GPC supplementation promoted atherosclerosis.[11]

However, the currently available evidence is preliminary in nature, so randomized controlled trials and large cohort studies are needed to confirm these findings.

How does alpha-GPC work?

Mechanistic evidence suggests that alpha-GPC exerts its effects by increasing the synthesis and release of acetylcholine in the brain, where it is involved in memory, motivation, arousal, and attention.[12][13][14][15]

Acetylcholine is also responsible for the action potential that stimulates muscles to contract. Therefore, it’s theorized that increased acetylcholine levels lead to a stronger signal for muscle contraction and, consequently, increased force production.

What else is Alpha-GPC known as?
Note that Alpha-GPC is also known as:
  • Alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine
  • L-alpha-glycerophosphocholin
  • glycerophosphocholine
  • L-alpha-glyceryl-phosphorylcholine
  • Choline Alphoscerate
Alpha-GPC should not be confused with:
Dosage information

For attenuating symptoms of cognitive decline, almost all studies used a dosage of 1,200 mg per day, divided into three doses of 400 mg.

For boosting power output, studies have used a dosage of 300–600 mg, supplemented 30–60 minutes prior to exercise.

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