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What is acetylcholine and why is it important?

What is Acetylcholine

Key Takeaways:

  1. Acetylcholine is an important chemical messenger between nerve synapses. 
  2. Acetylcholine is associated with memory, learning and attention span.
  3. The skeletal muscles, cardiac muscle, digestive system, and most organs require acetylcholine. 
  4. A diet rich in high choline food is recommended to maintain optimal levels of acetylcholine. 
  5. Specific nutrients can assist with the production, function & synthesis of acetylcholine 

Acetylcholine (ACh) is one of our body’s most important chemical messengers. It’s critical to both brain and muscle function. Chronic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease have been linked to imbalances of acetylcholine.

What is Acetylcholine?

The name acetylcholine is derived from its structure. It is an ester made up of acetic acid and choline.

It is the most abundant neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the body, found between the nerve synapses, or gaps, between our nerve cells. It serves as a messenger of nerve impulses within both our central and peripheral nervous systems which affect many muscle, cardiac and respiratory functions as well as learning and memory.

Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter to be discovered by scientists. It was first isolated by physiologist Sir Henry Hallett Dale in 1914, and its significance was later established by German physicist Otto Loewi. For their achievements, both men were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 1936.

Acetylcholine and the brain? 

Found in brain neurons, it plays a major part in many mental processes (1) including:

  • long-term and working memory
  • memory formation, consolidation and retrieval
  • Cognition (2)
  • motivation
  • arousal
  • attention
  • and learning.

Acetylcholine is also involved in promoting REM sleep.

A marked decrease in acetylcholine concentrations is associated with Alzheimer’s disease (2).

Acetylcholine and the body? 

In the peripheral nervous system, acetylcholine plays an important role in the somatic nervous system, working to activate muscles. And by muscles, we’re not just referring to your skeletal muscles. Cardiac muscle for example, is found in the myocardium and is responsible for contracting your heart to pump blood. Smooth muscle tissue on the other hand, forms organs such as the digestive tract and bladder, contracting and relaxing to enable bodily functions.

It is therefore vital for:

  • Contraction of smooth muscles
  • Decreased heart muscle contraction
  • Dilation of blood vessels
  • Stimulation of body secretions
  • A slower heart rate
  • Increased peristalsis (digestive contractions) in the stomach
  • Decreased capacity of the bladder

An imbalance can contribute to multiple motor side-effects such as coordination issues and tremors, as seen in people with the neurodegenerative condition Parkinson’s disease.

Can you boost your levels?

The synthesis of this neurotransmitter is dependent on a number of co-factors. Listed below are some nutrients required to maximize its production.

Choline

Choline is a building block of acetylcholine, and is an essential nutrient (2) obtained through the diet. Some studies suggest choline may also play a role in the development and treatment of certain mental health disorders (3).

Many people are not meeting the recommended intake for choline (3).

The foods highest in choline include (3):

  • Egg yolks
  • Beef liver and kidneys
  • Chicken liver
  • Fresh cod
  • Salmon
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli

As a single egg supplies about 20–25% of your recommended daily intake, two large eggs provide almost half (4). Go organic for maximum nutrient density.

BacoMind® – Bacopa monnieri

As an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) enzyme inhibitor, BacoMind® in myBrainCo.’s Sharp Mind decreases the activity of your primary cholinesterases enzyme which is responsible for breaking down acetylcholine. By reducing the activity of AChE, your levels of acetylcholine increase, enhancing memory, concentration and learning ability.

Sharp PS® – Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine, a phospholipid found in high concentrations in your brain, supports the synaptic neurotransmission of acetylcholine. Sharp Mind uses 120 mg of clinically researched Sharp-PS®, a premium branded form of phosphatidylserine. 

Vitamins B1 and B5

These important vitamins contained in Sharp Mind and Brain Energy are both involved in the synthesis of your neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Acetyl-Carnitine 

myBrainCo.’s Brain Energy contains a highly bioavailable form of Acetyl-Carnitine (ALCAR) which acts as a cofactor for the creation of acetylcholine.

Takeaway

Acetylcholine is a crucial neurotransmitter essential to many important functions in your brain and body. Imbalances can result in significant issues in areas such as memory and movement, including those that typify Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

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