Most vitamins are present in foods in essentially the same structural forms in which they are used in the body. Some, however, occur in foods as other substances, from which the body manufactures the vitamin itself. These other substances are called vitamin precursors. When a subject is given a precursor of lesser water-solubility than the desired compound, the precursor readily permeates the barrier, enters the site, and is converted by natural processes into the needed material. In a positive and beneficial sense, precursors may be regarded as biochemical Trojan horses.
Many dietary vitamins cannot permeate certain body sites, or are used up or otherwise destroyed before they can reach some parts of the body where they are needed. One of these sites exists between the bloodstream and the brain. It is known as the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Minute amounts of certain substances in the brain can cause radical changes in mood, personality, thought, and behavior. It is normal that there are water-soluble, toxic waste products in the circulatory system, for it is here that they are carried to the liver for detoxification or to the kidneys for excretion. But if they were to reach the brain, they would have disrupting effects. The BBB prevents such catastrophes.
Luckily, nature provides a precursor substance called dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) that can pass the barrier to the brain, and be converted to choline and acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is needed to convey motor and sensory signals from one nerve cell to the next along the nerve path. It also regulates the flow of nerve signals and is essential for all brain functions, especially memory. When there isn’t enough acetylcholine in the brain and nerve cells, a person experiences symptoms ranging from depression, sluggish behavior, fatigue, slowed reflexes, muddled thinking, and poor memory to nervousness, anxiety and hyperkinetic behavior (hyperactivity, especially in children). When acetylcholine is adequately supplied, these disappear as brain and nerve functions are normalized. But when acetylcholine levels are further increased by supplementation, energy, reflexes, mental alertness, mood, memory, and learning ability often improve beyond the normal levels.
Aside from being a choline precursor, DMAE has several functions as an anti-aging supplement. It is a very efficient antioxidant and free-radical deactivator. It stabilizes lysosome membranes, preventing the rupture of these scavenger bodies, which would result in leakage of collected toxins and protein-damaging enzymes. DMAE also appears to bring about repair of damaged cell membranes. The compound also prevents the formation of lipofucsin (brown pigment characteristics of aging) in the membranes. DMAE also helps sludging or clumping of red blood cells and makes more of them available for carrying oxygen to the tissues. Elevates mood and learning. Reduces the need for sleep. Increases physical energy. DMAE has been used as an alternative to Ritalin as having properties for the treatment of attention disorders without Ritalin's dangerous side effects.