Phospholipids are one of the true essential building blocks your body needs to function on a minute-to-minute basis. As the puzzle pieces composing the structure of the cell membrane, we literally could not exist without phospholipids. Chief among them is phosphatidylcholine (PC), accounting for 50% of the outer layer of the cell membrane, the barrier between the busy factory inside of the cell and the bloodstream outside. But there are many other types of phospholipids, and they all have a role to play in human health.
Major types of phospholipids include:
- Phosphatidylcholine (PC)
- Phosphatidylethanolamine (PE)
- Phosphatidylinositol (PI)
- Phosphatidylserine (PS)
- Phosphatidic acid (PA)
- Cardiolipin (CL)
- Sphingomyelin (SM).
As important as they are, phospholipids still aren’t as well known in the health and wellness sphere. Let’s take a look at 8 essential phospholipid benefits.
- Cell Membrane Structure
- Protect Organelles
- Support Mitochondrial Function
- Support Brain Health
- Enhance Acetylcholine
- Facilitate Early Brain Development
- Strengthen the Gut Lining
- Supports Healthy Liver Function
1. Maintain Cell Membrane Structure
Phospholipids make up the backbone of the cell membrane, the wall between the contents of our cell (cytosol) and the bloodstream. Without phospholipids, our cells would have no form, no structure.
The basic structure of a phospholipid is a phosphate head with a double fatty acid tail attached . When they are arranged side by side in a double layer, tails facing inward, heads facing outward, this is called a phospholipid bilayer, a semipermeable membrane that can allow nutrients into the cell and waste out of the cell. This cell membrane also protects the cell from pathogens and facilitates a number of electrical and chemical processes that support cellular function.
Of the many phospholipids involved in the cell membrane, phosphatidylcholine (PC) is the most abundant, but phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), phosphatidylinositol (PI), phosphatidylserine (PS), and phosphatidic acid (PA) are also present. BodyBio PC contains these 5 key phospholipids in true liposomal form.
2. Protect Organelles (Organs of the Cell)
Some phospholipids are also found in the membranes surrounding some of the cell organelles (yes, more membranes inside of the cell membrane). These organelles include the mitochondria, the energy producers of the cell, and the endoplasmic reticulum, which folds and transports proteins. Needless to say, protecting these organelles is essential for cellular function and keeping us energetic and vital.
3. Support Mitochondrial Function*
Phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) is the second most abundant phospholipid after PC, and it is more present in the inner membrane surrounding the mitochondria. PE supports mitochondrial function, helping to produce the energy that powers our cells .*
Cardiolipin (CL) is another essential phospholipid found in the inner mitochondrial membrane. In fact, you can only find it in mitochondria and myelin, the insulating substance that surrounds our nerve cells, protecting them from damage .
4. Support Brain Health and Neurotransmission
The brain, which is 60% lipids, needs an abundance of phospholipids in the right ratios to stabilize neural cell membranes and facilitate cognitive function.* One study showed that PC administered to mice with dementia improved their memories to the levels of control mice in the study . We often hear feedback from our customers, functional medicine doctors, and their patients who use our BodyBio PC that it has helped them see improvements in cognitive function and memory.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) has also been shown to support cognition, memory, and neuroprotective mechanisms .*
Phosphatidylinositol (PI) is another phospholipid that supports brain and neurological health; it represents 10% of the phospholipids found in brain tissue.*
5. Enhance Acetylcholine (a Key Neurotransmitter)*
If you’re familiar with your neurotransmitters, you’ll know that acetylcholine is the king of them all. Acetylcholine is the master neurotransmitter, essential for nervous system health, gut health, and mood regulation [6, 7, 8]. It is also key for cellular and immune functions .
PC, when needed, can provide choline to produce more acetylcholine, supporting brain health.* Appropriate levels of acetylcholine can protect against dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative conditions .
6. Facilitate Early Brain Development*
As the building blocks of cell membranes, phospholipids like PC are critical in early brain development, starting during pregnancy.* A pregnant woman’s need for PC dramatically increases during the third trimester, when phospholipids are needed for developing the membranes of the baby’s lungs as well as healthy fetal growth overall. Another phospholipid, sphingomyelin, is also involved in the early stages of brain (myelin) development.
Choline is also critical during this time, which PC can supply. A severe lack of choline during fetal development can lead to inadequate brain, spine, or spinal cord development, while even a slight deficiency may cause cognitive delays .
7. Strengthen the Gut Lining*
Phospholipids are the building blocks of membranes, and one of the most significant membranes in the body is the gut lining, a single-cell thick, semipermeable membrane that allows nutrients into the bloodstream and keeps waste in the colon. Exciting research has shown that supplemental PC has the ability to support the gut mucosa, our gut lining, and to strengthen the gut-brain axis .*
PC represents more than 90% of the phospholipid content in intestinal mucus, which is essential to protect the gut wall from pathogens like harmful bacteria and parasites. Research found that this PC content was reduced by 70% in ulcerative colitis patients, indicating that low PC may be a significant part of the problem in IBD.
Three clinical trials found that, “when missing mucus PC in UC [ulcerative colitis] was supplemented by an oral, delayed release PC preparation, the inflammation improved and even resolved after a 3-month treatment course,” .
8. PC Supports Healthy Liver Function*
The Benefits of Phospholipids for Your Health
Phospholipids are foundational to our cellular composition, affecting our brain function, immune health, gut health, liver health, and many other systems besides. Phosphatidylcholine is especially critical to cellular function and structure, and most of us aren’t getting enough through our diets. Supplementing true liposomal BodyBio PC can be a great way to increase your intake of this key nutrient and reap the benefits of this phospholipid complex for your health and longevity.