Do Citicoline drinks and gels sharpen mind, boost energy? In today’s globalized and hypercompetitive world, people need to speed up just to keep pace. This culture of speed is driving the demand for energy drinks and supplements, marketed on claims that drinking them clears your mind and helps you focus.
Last year, Americans spent about US$9 billion on energy drinks, according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition. In most of these drinks, caffeine or sugar provides the energy jolt.
But a growing number of energy drinks—including the popular 5-Hour Energy Shots and the new Nawgan — are being made with citicoline (better known by its brand name Cognizin), an organic stimulant, the Washington Post recently reported.
In addition, a variety of dietary supplements containing citicoline — in the form of gels and capsules — has also cropped up under the brand name Cognizin, sold by Kyowa Hakko USA, a unit of Japan’s Kirin Holdings.
“What you drink when you want to think,” reads the label of Nawgan, made by Nawgan Products LLC.
“It helps with alertness and concentration by providing nutrients the brain needs for alertness,” ABC News quoted Nawgan’s CEO Jim von der Hoyt as saying.
The St. Louis, Missouri-based company claims that its drink, which contains alpha-glyceryl phosphoryl choline, lycopene and d-alpha tocopherol acetate (natural vitamin E) and citicoline, sharpens memory and brain processing speed, which tend to decline as people age.
“Research has shown that the levels of acetylcholine (alpha-glyceryl phosphoryl choline), lycopene and d-alpha tocopherol decline in adulthood, leading to poorer memory and thinking skills,” it says on its
A study on the company website also claims citicoline can help improve focus and mental energy, and even manage symptoms of attention deficit disorder. On its site, it also invites consumers to track their mental performance with an online memory and focus test.
“Recapture the bright, alert feeling you need to power through your day,” reads the label on a can of 5-Hour Energy drink from Living Essentials LLC, Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Meanwhile, gel packets by Go GungHo Inc. targeted at gamers, are marketed with the slogan, “Ninja like focus” and Healthy Origins brand sells 250-milligram Cognizin capsules for “memory function and health cognition.”
But are the claims backed up by facts?
So far, the jury is out. Scientists believe citicoline, an organic molecule found naturally in the brain, speeds up formation of brain cell membranes and boosts production of neurotransmitters essential to brain function.
It’s sold as a prescription drug in some European countries to help regenerate the brain after a stroke. But the United States Food and Drug Administration didn’t approve citicoline as a prescription medicine when clinical trials it was no more effective than a placebo, the Washington Post reports.
In the U.S., a liquid form of citicoline called CerAxon is sold as a “medical food” for use in patients with stroke and traumatic brain injury. CerAxon, sold by Ferrer Group of Barcelona, Spain, doesn’t require a prescription, but is intended to be taken in two daily doses of 1,000 milligrams, under a doctor’s direction.
Makers of beverages, supplements and medical foods in the U.S. are not required FDA approval. But their labels must be truthful and the FDA does require companies to ensure their products are safe before going to market. Once on shelves, they can also be subject to a post-market safety review.
So far, aside from the occasional mild gastrointestinal upset reported as a side effect, Citicoline appears safe.
Does it sharpen the brain? Catherine Ulbricht, co-founder of Natural Standard Research Collaboration, a Cambridge, Mass., scientist-owned group that evaluates natural therapies says her group gives citicoline a grade of “C” or “unclear scientific evidence”