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Smart Basics IntelliScope


By Lane Leonard, PhD.

The human brain is the most complex "machine" ever created. The mental acrobatics it permits are the essence of our humanity. But like any other machine, it requires fuel to run, and when that fuel runs low, its performance may drop off as well. On the other hand, when its tank is full of high-quality, premium fuel, you can expect optimum performance.

The best way I know to keep your mental and physical machinery fine-tuned and humming at peak efficiency is with a choline and B-5 supplement. We're all familiar with the feelings of physical weakness and mental dullness that are signs that our "machine" is running down and needs a rest. The slightest physical exertion seems like a major effort; you can't concentrate on anything more complex than a TV sitcom; your memory just seems to slide away; your energy reservoir has run dry; your brain feels drained; you feel mentally unfit.

Trying to feel more fit mentally and physically has led many people to become coffee and/or cigarette addicts. Both the caffeine in coffee and the nicotine in cigarettes act like powerful stimulants in the brain, releasing the neurotransmitters noradrenaline and dopamine and activating nerve circuits throughout the body that make you feel more alert, more mentally and physically prepared to interact with a fast-moving, perhaps even hostile environment. This is called the "fight-or-flight" response, and it's one of our most basic physiological activities.

Nicotine also activates a different set of neurons, known as the cholinergic system, where the neurotransmitter is a chemical called acetylcholine (ACh). In the brain, the release of ACh is a controlling factor in memory and attention. When ACh activity is reduced in the brain by disease, drugs, or "aging," loss of memory, confusion, and inability to concentrate are common symptoms.

Given the chemical boost coffee and cigarettes apply to your brain and nervous system, it's no wonder they've become the two most widely used drugs in the world. Unfortunately, though, coffee and cigarettes also have well-known downsides. Too much coffee can leave you jittery and drained at the end of the day; and cigarettes are a well-documented cause of heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

Does that mean mental fitness is a goal that will remain forever elusive? Of course not. This is the age of science, and today there's more than one way to fuel your machine. You can, for example, eat large quantities of foods that contain relatively high levels of choline, foods like egg yolks, liver, soybeans, or fish ("brain food"). But the best way I know to keep your mental and physical machinery fine-tuned and humming at peak efficiency is Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw's CHOLINE COOLER. On the basis of more than 20 years of research from hundreds of scientists all over the world, they created CHOLINE COOLER as a delicious formulation of choline + essential nutrient cofactors designed to naturally support key cholinergic nerve circuits by supplying raw materials for the manufacture of ACh.

Now, I'm a skeptic when it comes to claims like these, especially when it comes to memory. Although we all know what memory is, scientifically speaking it is a very elusive concept, very difficult to measure experimentally. During my years in the research laboratory, I came across many studies that purported to show improvements or decrements in memory that really had little to do with the real thing.

But I've learned through the years that when Pearson and Shaw make a claim, I ought to pay attention. I maintain my skepticism, but I read the literature, and as I do, I soon become convinced that they're really on to something. It never seems to fail. Choline is no exception. Of course, no single result is ever the whole story, but the bulk of animal and human experiments over the last 20 to 30 years point in the same general direction: that by increasing the choline in your diet, you can increase the ACh in your neurons, and by increasing the ACh in your neurons, you can improve your mental and neuromuscular functioning. Consider a few representative examples:

Drugs are one thing, but what about just consuming more choline? Is that really enough to make a difference? In fact, studies have shown that the ACh system does not normally run at full capacity. When lecithin, a major dietary source of choline, is consumed, this choline enters the brain, where nerve cells use it to make and release more ACh. So it should come as no surprise that when Meck and Church gave their rats a snack of lecithin prior to testing, the animals' memory storage speed improved in a manner similar to that observed with the drug physostigmine.

Thus, we have two pieces of evidence pointing in the same direction: when you provide more ACh for cholinergic neurons to use, memory gets better.

In another animal study, atropine was injected directly into a region of rats' brains that is full of cholinergic neurons. When the animals were later tested, they showed evidence of "amnesia." However, when the atropine was combined with choline, the rats' memory remained intact.

Again we see the same pattern: interfere with cholinergic nerve cell activity and memory goes down; enhance this activity and memory improves.2 Testing memory in humans is even more difficult than in animals, but the same general conclusions apply:

"While immediate memory was spared, storage of new information was significantly impaired," the authors noted in discussing the scopolamine results. "The results of the present investigation and a review of other related studies lead to the conclusion that central cholinergic mechanisms are crucial to the storage of new information," they wrote3.

One of the most remarkable observations growing out of these and other studies is the similarity between the memory and cognitive deficits caused by anticholinergic drugs like atropine and scopolamine and those associated with both "normal" aging and Alzheimer's disease.* Again, both animal and human experiments parallel each other:

Research scientists Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw have been designing and using various choline formulations for more than 20 years, ever since they became aware of the remarkable benefits for mental functioning. Choline Cooler is the culmination of that research. In order to maximize the conversion of choline to ACh, Pearson and Shaw added the nutrient cofactor vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid), as well as many other nutrients, crystalline fructose, and flavorings.

The result is a great-tasting lemon-lime cooler that delivers 2,600% more choline than the best natural source, lecithin. To get the equivalent of one serving of Choline Cooler, you'd need to consume nearly 27 gm of lecithin! The unique natural fruit flavor system used by Pearson and Shaw is a care-fully chosen combination of citric acid, malic acid, and fumaric acid, which give citrus fruits, cherries, and many other fruits their natural tartness and antioxidant protection. They even suggest pouring it over shaved ice to make "Choline Cooler Sherbet").

"Choline Cooler is fantastic for organizing your thinking," says co-developer Shaw. "Since I've been using Choline Cooler, my writing has improved immensely. Durk used to have to reorganize everything I wrote. Now his changes are usually minor." Both Pearson and Shaw have found that the combination of Choline Cooler and BLAST literally blow away writer's block. He also points out the benefits of Choline Cooler plus a phenylalanine supplement like BLAST or RISE & SHINE for computer programmers. "Organized thinking is extremely important for programmers. We've had many computer programmers tell us that using these formulations, they can write twice as many lines of code per week with a fraction of the number of bugs," he adds.

Shaw points out that Choline Cooler (plus BLAST or RISE & SHINE) is great for anyone who has to communicate for a living, not just writers. "It's absolutely ideal for salesmen, because it takes a lot of motivation and organization to keep going and be successful, and the supplements can make it a lot easier."

Let's not forget the physical side of the coin. ACh is the neurotransmitter wherever neurons stimulate skeletal and smooth cells. Raise the level of ACh at these neuromuscular junctions and you can improve your muscle tone. "A lot of people have saggy tummies," notes Durk, "and it's not necessarily because they've got a lot of fat there. It may be just that their abdominal muscle tone is low, because they sit around all day in a swivel chair without exercising. Choline Cooler can help flatten out their stomachs and give their entire muscular system a tone-up."

The concept of "mental fitness" seems foreign to some people who have just come to accept the feeling of "brain drain" as a normal part of living. But if your mental fuel gauge is pointing to "E," there's no need to roll into the garage. Just say, "Fill `er up-with Choline Cooler" and roar back on the highway.

  1. Meck W, Church R. Nutrients that modify the speed of internal clock and memory storage processes. Behav. Neuroscience 1987;101:465-475.
  2. Solama R, Prudo-Alcala RA. Retrograde amnesia produced by intrastriatal atropine and its reversal by choline. Lif Sci 1990;46:679-86
  3. Drachman DA, Leavitt J. Human memory and the cholinergic system. Arch Neurol 1974;30:113-121.
* Studies of Alzheimer's patients given choline supplements (or lecithin, a source of choline) show little or no improvement. Studies of the brains of Alzheimer's patients show that they do not possess the important enzyme choline-acetyltransferase, which is needed to convert choline into acetylcholine.

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