United States military and researchers had high hopes for citicoline as a treatment for traumatic brain injuries. Studies conducted in lab animals had previously suggested that high doses of the compound could help patients with brain injuries speed up their recovery with few side effects. However, according to U.S. News Health, a recent study found that citicoline offers no benefits to the patients and does nothing to help improve brain function.
Choline, a chemical that is needed to build brain cells, is found in some foods and is sold as diet supplements. Citicoline is a naturally occurring brain compound made of choline and is used by patients with a variety of neurological disorders. Studies have also found that the compound might be a possible treatment for strokes, but there were mixed results. Patients who take the supplement were thought to experience improved memory and mental attentiveness.
Despite the high hopes for the possible treatment, a recent study followed 1,213 TBI patients aged 18 and older who were hospitalized at eight U.S. trauma centers. Patients received citicoline or an inactive placebo within 24 hours of their injury, which ranged from mild to severe brain injuries. Therapy continued for 90 days. Although most patients improved mental functions, those who were not on the supplement showed similar progress, suggesting the normal healing process was at work in both groups.
Since 2000 and the Middle East wars, the military has reported more than 250,000 cases of traumatic brain injuries. Scientists and military were hopeful about the possibility of using citicoline as an effective treatment to help TBI patients improve their brain function.
But Dr. Steven Zeisel believes that choline still may be a possible treatment if used in combination with other potential treatments. The scientist and director of the University of North Carolina’s Nutrition Research Institute, who wasn’t involved in the study, notes that another study would be needed, which would be costly and rigorous.
Scientists are back to the drawing board to research more possible treatments. Wayne Gordon, vice chair of the department of rehabilitation medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, notes how the study reveals the complexity of TBI: “It highlights the fact that traumatic brain injury as an injury is not ‘one-size-fits-all’ and research is needed to develop approaches to the better classification of brain injury.”