What is Phosphatidylcholine and How Can it Benefit Your Health?

Key Takeaways

  • It’s our epigenetics, not necessarily our genetics, that have a greater impact on individual health outcomes. 
  • The effects of epigenetics play out in the cell membrane.
  • The cell membrane is largely composed of phospholipids, the main one being phosphatidylcholine. 
  • Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is essential to cellular, and therefore overall, health.*
  • PC enhances the free passage of food and energy into the cell while escorting wastes and detritus out. By doing so, it works to enhance the process of the metabolism within a cell.*
  • PC can be absorbed from food, but not in a high enough quantity for a healthy adult. Supplementation with a high quality liposomal PC such as Bodybio PC provides support for brain, immune, digestive health and more.*

Let’s start off with a little explanation of genetics vs. epigenetics. 

For over half a century we’ve held onto the illusion that our health and fate were pre-programmed in our genes—this idea is called genetic determinacy. The idea was that our genes not only contain the ability to produce the 100,000 proteins we need from our DNA, but they’re also the brains of the cell, guiding what proteins are required at every moment. 

However, recent advances in science are moving away from this premise and viewing epigenetics as the primary guide in genetic production. Epigenetics refers to something beyond genetics on the perimeter of the cell—the cell membrane..

Bruce Lipton, a renowned cell biologist, has concluded that genes actually do not control  what proteins they should produce next. Instead, our genes are guided by a thin sliver of phospholipids so tiny a microscope can not see it. He presents this theory in the fascinating book, The Biology of Belief (Elite Books, 2005). 

Lipton, a former professor at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and the Stanford School of Medicine, makes the case that, “Through the action of the cell membrane we can actually control our genes, our biology, and our life, and we have been doing it all along although we have been laboring under the belief that we are victims (sic) of our genes” (1).

Lipton says genes are the blueprints for 25,000 sets of instructions our cell membrane needs to run our body. Architects use blueprints to build things, but there is no action taken by a blueprint. A healthy cell membrane takes the blueprints and sets them into motion. All of this suggests that caring for our health on the cellular level is extremely important because our cell membranes communicate to our bodies for our DNA. When the cell membrane is compromised, the entire system suffers.

Got all that? Now, how do we maintain tip-top cell membrane, and therefore cellular, health? That’s where phosphatidylcholine comes in. 

Phosphatidylcholine’s Function in the Body

Phosphatidylcholine, or PC for short, is not a vitamin but a phospholipid, one of the key elements that make up our cell membranes. 

“A phospholipid is a lipid that contains a phosphate group and is a major component of cell membranes. A phospholipid consists of a hydrophilic (water-loving) head and hydrophobic (water-fearing) tail.” The lipid bilayer acts as a barrier to the passage of molecules and ions into and out of the cell, but it also “allow[s] selective passage of certain substances into and out of cells.” (2) This ability is key to our cellular health. (Is any of this coming back to you from high school biology yet?)

PC is a biological substrate that contributes to cellular membrane structure and function.* Because it’s architecture parallels that of the cell membrane, it is accepted by the membrane as a building block, incorporating itself into the cell’s structure.  

Levels of PC decrease with age, injury, toxic exposure, pollution, pesticides and lack of a nutrient dense diet. The impact of this shift in the outer membrane is difficult to envision. It involves every cell and organ of the body affecting your ability to function. A decline in PC, which causes a rise in sphingomyelin and cholesterol, results in a dramatic shift in cellular homeostasis (3).

Functionally, PC enhances the free passage of food and energy into the cell while escorting wastes and detritus out. By doing so, it works to enhance the process of the metabolism within a cell. Better cell metabolism = better cellular health = a healthier you overall, largely thanks to PC.*  

Cell Membrane Structure

Phosphatidylcholine molecules forming the structure of the cell membrane looks like this: 

Remember those hydrophilic and hydrophobic sides of PC? When they form the cell membrane, they create the phospholipid bilayer, like a PC sandwich with two layers of phospholipids zippered together––the hydrophilic tails forming the inner layer of the membrane and the hydrophobic heads forming the outer layer, separating the inside of the cell from the aqueous environment outside. 

This bilayer is self-healing and very fluid, which is ideal for cell function and signalling. [4]

Are Phosphatidylcholine and Choline The Same?

Choline and PC are often confused as one in the same, but they are two very different key nutrients. Phosphatidylcholine’s headgroup, choline, is not synthesized by the body, it is an essential nutrient that must be supplied by dietary sources. Choline is an essential nutrient related to the water-soluble B-complex vitamins. It’s the precursor for acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that controls neuromuscular and peripheral nervous system activity, including GI peristalsis, vasodilation, mood, sleep, thought and cognition, among others.  

PC is what makes up our cell membrane architecture, which also enhances cell function.* When produced correctly (not lecithin and triple lechin because they break down in digestion to fatty acids and choline) PC can be liposomal meaning it passes into the bloodstream intact, bypassing digestive degradation to deliver lipids to every cell of every organ and organ system of the body.

Benefits of Phosphatidylcholine

Promotes a Healthy Pregnancy & Infant Development

PC can facilitate the healthy development of lungs and lung surfactants in a growing baby as well as promote healthy fetal growth.* There is an increased demand for PC by the fetus, especially during the third trimester, so getting optimal levels is important. As always, check with your doctor before supplementing with PC during pregnancy.

Supports Brain Health

Initial studies have found that PC may help with mild memory loss associated with aging and support healthy brain function (5).* The brain is 60% lipids and maintaining the right balance of phospholipids in cellular membranes is critical for brain functioning. 

An animal study published in The Journal of Nutrition showed that phosphatidylcholine “improved memory and generally increased brain choline and acetylcholine concentrations to or above the levels of the control normal mice.”* (5).

It seems that both PC itself and PC as a source of choline to produce acetylcholine, one of the most abundant neurotransmitters in the brain, contribute to maintaining brain health, including learning and memory [6].* We eagerly await further study in this exciting field! 

Patients looking for liver support, respiratory distress, gastric issues, CNS involvements (including aberrant cognitions) and detox matters may benefit from a PC regimen*. 

 

Mitochondrial Benefits

Just like the cell membrane, PC is also the most abundant phospholipid in the mitochondrial membrane [7]. 

You might remember from another high school biology flashback that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell––this is where your energy comes from! So when you support your mitochondria by increasing PC levels in your body, your mitochondria are able to more easily produce energy for your cells, translating to more energy for you to accomplish challenging work tasks, wrangle kids, or get in that strength training session.    

Good mitochondrial function is also essential to protect the body against cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disease. [8]                                                                                                                                             

Supports Heart Health

There have been some misattributions in the past of PC promoting cardiovascular disease, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

PC is an extremely valuable nutrient in supporting heart health.* The studies linking PC to an increased risk of CVD make the mistake of equating PC with lecithin, which only contains 35% PC at the most and is not prepared for optimal use by our cells. Make no mistake, true liposomal PC is one of the most beneficial substances our bodies need, including for cardiovascular health. For additional information on this subject, check out our blog here

Promotes Healthy Liver and Lung Function

PC is also a key component in liver health.* It is one of the primary ingredients of bile, which helps us break down and digest fats. [9] Without proper bile flow from the liver and gallbladder, our food is not digested properly, leading to fermentation and allowing microbes to proliferate where they shouldn’t exist––in the stomach and small intestine. Many digestive disorders can result from simply not having enough bile. 

Fortunately, supplementing PC can help restore good bile production and flow from the liver to the gallbladder to the digestive system.*

As a lung surfactant, PC is a rescue molecule to acute respiratory distress in adults and children. Basically, the more PC available to the lungs, the better your breathing.* [10] In this viral season, PC may provide you some extra peace of mind that your lungs are working at optimal capacity. 

Supports Gut Health

A lack of PC has fascinating connections to inflammatory bowel concerns. PC makes up 90% of the phospholipids creating the intestinal mucosa, the mucus layer in our guts that protects the body from pathogens. In patients with ulcerative colitis, “the mucus PC content is reduced by 70%” [11]. No wonder the intestinal lining is inflamed in this condition!

This suggests that supplemental PC may help support gut health for those with this condition. “In three clinical trials, when missing mucus PC in UC was supplemented by an oral, delayed release PC preparation, the inflammation improved and even resolved after a 3-month treatment course” [11].

Of course, most of us could use a little extra support for our gut health these days, so PC could certainly be used to support even a “normal” gut. 

Does Phosphatidylcholine Have Any Side Effects? 

As with any supplement, it’s important to know what side effects may exist in order to make the best decision for your body. Fortunately, PC is generally well-tolerated when used orally and topically. 

Doses that exceed recommendations may evoke mild and transient gastric distress, such as bloating and diarrhea, especially if taken in the absence of food. Rarely, sweating and itching have been reported in doses approaching 30 grams. 

Not all Phosphatidylcholine is Created Equal: A History of Lecithin + PC in the Market

In the 20th century, lecithin was a problem for big grain companies because of its tendency to stick to oil-producing machinery and cause a mess. Lecithin makes up approximately 2% of oil production, which doesn’t sound like much unless you think about oil production in the US generating approximately 120,000,000 pounds yearly. Two percent of that equals around two million pounds — that’s a lot of lecithin!

Around this same time PC, the largest of the PLs, was discovered. However, fatty acid technology was still in its infancy. Understanding lecithin and the phospholipids that are part of lecithin took many years to evolve. The knowledge that lecithin contained PC, and that PC was beneficial, was used to establish a rule concerning PC and lecithin; if there was 30% PC in the lecithin in a supplement it could be called phosphatidylcholine. And so, lecithin was packed in drums with 35% soybean oil, encapsulated, and then produced in bulk and sold to vitamin companies who repackaged them under their own label as “Phosphatidylcholine.”

This watered down version of PC creates a much less effective product and may even cause harm because of additives and un-tested ingredient interactions. At BodyBio we never dilute our products or substitute quantity for quality.

How to Increase Phosphatidylcholine in the Body

There are two ways to increase PC in the body—through food sources and supplementation.  

Phosphatidylcholine Foods

The top PC containing foods include meat (especially red meats) eggs, and soybeans, but getting the levels you need through food alone can be difficult, if not impossible. 

Since PC in food is broken down into phospholipids + choline, it’s not possible to reach optimal levels of PC through diet alone. PC gets taken apart by phospholipase enzymes to send choline to make acetylcholine, and then some choline reunites with phospholipids to make PC in the liver. This process wanes as we age. In fact, an adult is lucky to have 10% of the PC they had at birth. This is why supplementation of PC is necessary and recommended.  

Still, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful of which foods contain PC and to incorporate those foods in your everyday diet. You can emphasize high-quality: 

  • Red meat 
  • Beef liver (4 oz. per week recommended)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Oysters
  • Soybeans (not recommended for everyday consumption, especially non-organic)
  • Sunflower seeds. [12]

Phosphatidylcholine Supplementation

As mentioned above, getting an optimal level of PC is difficult through diet alone, but finding a high-quality supplement can be challenging as well. When PC is extracted in the correct way it becomes liposomal. Using a liposomal PC, such as BodyBio PC Complex, sends phospholipids through the body and brain, rebuilding whichever cells need repair. 

PC supplements are recommended for women hoping to conceive and those who are already pregnant. After all, a growing fetus needs a lot of membranes! The same holds true for aging populations, and anyone who feels like they could use a little extra clarity and brain power during the day. As we mature, the PC content of our cells decreases. The rejuvenating effect of PC supplementation, especially on brain cells, is astounding.

Phosphatidylcholine Dosage

According to the very few published studies on PC, doses of 1.5 to 5.0 grams taken orally daily is the recommended dosage. However, there are no studies that indicate optimal doses in any specific situation. Conditions that must be considered include age, gender, size, activity levels, current pathologies, and (in some cases) duration of disease. 

BodyBio Phosphatidylcholine

In 2000, after years of biohacking his own health and dedicating his life to studying fatty acids and lipidomics, BodyBio Founder Ed Kane developed our own PC formula. As an entrepreneur battling his own health issues, he knew the importance of PC and was determined to maximize its potency. 

In the lab at BodyBio, he discovered how to isolate and concentrate not just PC but PE, PS and PI — the three main phospholipids that support the membrane of the cell and organelles, like mitochondria. It’s this proprietary extraction technology that makes BodyBio PC so unique.

BodyBio PC is derived from soy for a very particular reason: PC from soy is a plant duplicate of the egg PC discovered by Professor Barenholtz, head of the Department of Membrane Biochemistry and Neurochemistry, Hebrew U, Jerusalem Israel and his assistant, Yechiel, in their groundbreaking study (13). 

BodyBio PC’s unique formulation has been prescribed by over 3000 doctors for over 20 years. There are very few liposomal PC’s in the global marketplace. You may see other brands of PC for $20-$30 per bottle, but real, liposomal PC is far more expensive because extracting liposomal PC is a time-consuming and delicate process. If heat is generated beyond that which the PC can withstand, the complex is ruined. 

Each batch of BodyBio PC is tested several times before being bottled and then tested by an independent lab to confirm results. Our PC is tested for potency, consistency, purity, and viscosity. 

If you’re looking for a quality supplement to enhance brain function, digestive, immune, and overall cellular health, check out BodyBio PC

References

  1. https://www.brucelipton.com/resource/article/the-wisdom-your-cells
  2. https://chem.libretexts.org
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3839508/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26871/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7782901/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997672/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5009247/#:~:text=Phosphatidylcholine%20(PC)%20is%20the%20most,endoplasmic%20reticulum%20produce%20cellular%20PC.&text=We%20studied%20protein%20transport%20into,mutants%20defective%20in%20PC%20biosynthesis.
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005273617301220
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3729018/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11726398/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23295697/
  12. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ejlt.201100350
  13. Yechiel Y. and Barenholz Y., Relationships between Membrane Lipid Composition and Biological Properties of Rat Myocytes, 1985

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