Medicines containing citicoline (cytidine-diphosphocholine) as an active principle have been marketed since the 1970s as nootropic and psychostimulant drugs available on prescription. Recently, the inner salt variant of this substance was pronounced a food ingredient in the major world markets. However, in the EU no nutrition or health claim has been authorized for use in commercial communications concerning its properties. Citicoline is considered a dietetic source of choline and cytidine. Cytidine does not have any health claim authorized either, but there are claims authorized for choline, concerning its contribution to normal lipid metabolism, maintenance of normal liver function, and normal homocysteine metabolism. The applicability of these claims to citicoline is discussed, leading to the conclusion that the issue is not a trivial one. Intriguing data, showing that on a molar mass basis citicoline is significantly less toxic than choline, are also analyzed. It is hypothesized that, compared to choline moiety in other dietary sources such as phosphatidylcholine, choline in citicoline is less prone to conversion to trimethylamine (TMA) and its putative atherogenic N-oxide (TMAO). Epidemiological studies have suggested that choline supplementation may improve cognitive performance, and for this application citicoline may be safer and more efficacious.
Keywords: choline; citicoline; health claims; procognitive effects; toxicity; trimethylamine oxide.