Acetylcholine neurotransmitter and its effects on the body and brain ZHION.COM
Can it be increased naturally with supplements and herbs? by DW 6-5-2011
Acetylcholine is an ester of acetic acid and choline. Acetylcholine (ACh) is a substance that
transmits nerve impulses (neurotransmitter) in both the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and
central nervous system (CNS). Acetylcholine is found in the autonomic nervous system, the motor
division of the somatic nervous system as well as in all autonomic ganglia.
When acetylcholine functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it slows the heart rate. It is an
excitatory neurotransmitter at neuromuscular junctions; acetylcholine activates muscles.
Acetylcholine is involved in learning and short-term memory.
Acetylcholine is synthesized in certain neurons by the enzyme choline acetyltransferase from the
compounds choline and acetyl-CoA. While, acetycholinestearate is an enzyme that occurs
especially in some nerve endings and in the blood and promotes the breakdown of acetylcholine.
Nerve agents inhibit the action of this enzyme.
How to increase acetylcholine level
The synthesis of neurotransmitters in mammalian brain responds rapidly to changes in precursor
availability; the synthesis of acetylcholine in brain responds to substrate (choline) availability.
Short-term alterations in brain choline levels are mirrored by similar changes in brain acetylcholine
concentration. Variations in the daily dietary intake of choline also modify brain choline and
acetylcholine. The relationship between choline availability and acetylchyoline synthesis has
already been found a clinical application: choline has been used successfully in the treatment of
tardive dyskinesia, a disorder of the central nervous system thought to reflect a deficiency in
cholinergic transmission.[Fernstrom JD. Metabolism. 1977 Feb;26(2):207-23.]
Choline, an essential nutrient, plays a number of vital roles in the body. It is used to synthesize
phosphatidylcholine, a molecule needed for the structural integrity and signaling functions of cell
membranes, as well as for lipid transport and metabolism. Choline directly affects cholinergic
neurotransmission via synthesis of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Finally, choline functions as
a major source of methyl-groups in the diet. [Fischer LM et al, The Am. Soc. for Nutri. Sci. J. Nutr.
135:826-829, April 2005]
Acetylcholine Benefits - Myasthenia gravis
In myasthenia gravis, the body produces immune cells blocking the muscle cells from receiving
messages (neurotransmitters) from the nerve cells. Consequently, myasthenia gravis caues
weakness of the skeletal muscles. Symptoms may include fatigue, voice change, difficulty in
breathing, chewing, swallowing, lifting objects and talking or even double vision. In some cases,
myasthenia gravis is associated with tumors of the thymus. Medications, such as neostigmine and
pyridostigmine, may improve the condition, while prednisone may also be needed to suppress the
autoimmune response. There is no scientific evidence that acetylcholine or choline supplement
may improve myasthenia gravis.
Acetylcholine benefits - Alzheimer's disease
Treatment is supportive; drugs, such as galantamine, donepezil (Aricept®) and rivastigmine
(Exelon®), that increase cholinergic activity by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase produce a modest
but useful behavioral or cognitive benefit in a minority of affected individuals. Supplements of
choline or acetylcholine may possibly help the condition for some individuals, but clinical evidence
is needed to support this claim.
Acetylcholine benefits - Erection
The penis physiological states of flaccidity or erection, result from the contraction or relaxation,
respectively, of smooth muscle cells in the corpora cavernosa (CSMCs). On sexual stimulation the
cavernous nerves release nitric oxide (NO) that starts the erectile response. They also release
acetylcholine that stimulates the endothelium to generate a more sustained release of NO. Thus,
acetylcholine may have effect on sexuality and erection. [Mas M. Arch Esp Urol. 2010
The influence of acetylcholine on appetite is unclear. [6-5-2011]
Ghrelin is a peptide predominantly produced by the stomach, although expressed by many other
tissues, including the pancreas and the cardiovascular system. Its secretion is negatively
associated to body mass index and undergoes fluctuations during the day. It is stimulated by
energy restriction and acetylcholine, while it is reduced by gastrectomy, food intake, glucose,
insulin and SRIF. [Broglio F J Endocrinol Invest. 2005;28(5 Suppl):23-5.]
A small clinical study suggests that fasting ghrelin concentrations might be under cholinergic
control and that the cholinergic system appears to modulate ghrelin-induced GH release. [Maier C
et al, J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Sep;89(9):4729-33.]
Acetylcholine Benefits - Vision and Glaucoma
Acetylcholine (ACh) contributes to learning processes by modulating cortical plasticity in terms of
intensity of neuronal activity and selectivity properties of cortical neurons. [Kang JI,PLoS One.
2009 Jun 22;4(6):e5995.]
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Loss of vision due to glaucoma
is caused by the selective death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). systemic administration of
galantamine, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, promotes protection of RGC soma and axons in a
rat glaucoma model. Supplements of choline or acetylcholine may possibly help the condition for
some individuals, but clinical evidence is needed to support this claim. [Almasieh M, Cell Death Dis.
Acetylcholine deficiency? Do you need to take acetylcholine supplements?
You may not need to take it, as many foods eaten by humans such as eggs, meats, cruciferous
vegetables, and legumes contain substantial amounts of choline and choline esters. [Fischer LM et
al, The Am. Soc. for Nutri. Sci. J. Nutr. 135:826-829, April 2005]
Check with your doctor to see if you need to take acetylcholine supplement.
Acetylcholine Side effects
Hyperhidrosis is the condition characterized by abnormally increased perspiration, in excess of that
required for regulation of body temperature. Hands, feet, armpits, and the back area are among
the most active regions of perspiration due to the relatively high concentration of sweat glands.
Primary hyperhidrosis is caused by an overactive sympathetic nerve.
Reference: Wikipedia, NIH and FDA websites.
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