What is Phosphatidylcholine and how can it benefit your health?
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 referred to as genetic determinacy. Our genes not only contain the ability to produce the 100,000 proteins from DNA, 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, or as outside the cell, on the perimeter — the membrane of the cell.
Bruce Lipton, a renowned cell biologist has studied how cells process information for 40 years, leading him to the conclusion that genes are not in control of what proteins they should produce next. Instead, our genes are guided by a thin sliver of lipid phospholipids so tiny a microscope can not see it. These include our thoughts and beliefs, which Lipton argues can shape our DNA, a theory he presents in “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 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 important because our cell membranes communicate for our DNA, when the cell membrane is compromised the entire system is.
The Connection Between Cell Health and Phospholipids
The best way to keep our cells healthy is with phospholipids, especially Phosphatidylcholine aka PC. PC is not a vitamin, but a phospholipid (PL), one element that makes up our cell membranes. PC supplies the body with the raw materials it needs to keep cells intact and running on all cylinders, much like adding bricks to the walls of our 70+ trillion cells. In this article we’ll go deeper into what phosphatidylcholine is, what studies have shown it does for the body, the difference between PC and Choline, and the best sources of PC.
What is a Phospholipid?
Since Phosphatidylcholine is a phospholipid, understanding the basics of these molecules is important in understanding the bigger picture of cellular health. “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 (2)”. The lipid bilayer acts as a barrier to the passage of molecules and ions into and out of the cell. “However, an important function of the cell membrane is to allow selective passage of certain substances into and out of cells. This is accomplished by the embedding of various protein molecules in and through the lipid bilayer (2).”
Phospholipids found in the cell membrane include:
Phosphatidylethanolamine (PE)- Vital to mitochondrial function* and accounts for about one-fourth of all phospholipids and is also an important part of the membrane. However, it is found in the inner part of the membrane where it oversees membrane structure and acts as a basis for several biological pathways, making it integral to our cellular health.
Phosphatidylinositol (PI)- Supportive to the brain and neurotransmission. A minor element of the inner side of the membrane but still considered one of the more interesting phospholipids metabolically because its actions are stimulated by the cell membrane itself through a complex interaction of proteins and enzymes that directs the cell’s metabolic changes, including the ability to change our sense of smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) - Important to cognitive function.* Like PE, PS is found in the inner part of the membrane. PS is formed from PE by swapping the ethanolamine head for L-serine, which then enhances acetylcholine release and improves cell signaling to rectify faulty cognitive activity.
Phosphatidylcholine (PC)- Essential for memory and cognitive support* the major component of the cell membrane in the outer leaflet of the membrane helping it to maintain structural integrity and to repair cells that are jeopardized by internal and external threats to our health.
How Phosphatidylcholine Works in the Body
PC is a membrane therapeutic molecule that has several modes of action, most importantly, its contribution 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.
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 metabolism within a cell. Because BodyBio PC is a liposome, it has the wherewithal to deliver a payload to a targeted cell, whether that payload delivers its own personality or that of medication or another healing entity.
As a lung surfactant, PC is a rescue molecule to acute respiratory distress syndrome in adults and children. In GI diseases, it restores the mucus lining that occupies the intestinal lumen.
Are Phosphatidylcholine and Choline The Same?
Choline and PC are often confused as one in the same, but there is a distinction between the two. Choline is an essential nutrient related to the water-soluble B-complex vitamins. It’s the precursor for acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that mediates neuromuscular and peripheral nervous system activity, including GI peristalsis, vasodilation, mood, sleep, thought and cognitions, among others.
PC is the stuff of our cell membrane architecture, which also enhances cell function. Being a liposome, it passes into the bloodstream intact, bypassing digestive degradation to deliver healing to every cell of every organ and organ system of the body.
Benefits of Phosphatidylcholine
Because PC is essential to so many systems in the body and works to give your cells the boost they need to work better. Benefits of PC supplementation may include healthy liver and lung function, optimized mental focus and brain health, and supported mitochondria. PC may also decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower cholesterol (3).
PC Supplementation May Also Be Beneficial For:
Pregnant Women + Infant Development- PC can facilitate healthy development of lungs/lung surfactants in a growing baby, and 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.
Mental health + cognition- initial studies have found that PC may help with mild memory loss associated with aging and support healthy brain function (4).
Patients looking for liver support, respiratory distress, gastric issues, CNS involvements (including aberrant cognitions) and detox matters may benefit from a PC regimen*.
Phosphatidylcholine Side Effects
As with any supplement, it’s important to know what side effects may be in order to make the best decision for your body. PC is 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 encapsulated 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. 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.
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. As we mature, the PC content of our cells decreases. The rejuvenating effect of PC supplementation, especially on brain cells, is astounding.
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 duration of disease.
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, and PI — the three phospholipids that support the membrane of the cell and organelles, like mitochondria. It’s this proprietary extraction process 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 (5).
BodyBio PC’s unique formulation has been used by over 3000 doctors for 20 years. There are very few liposomal PC’s in the global marketplace. You 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.
Zeisel SH, Corbin KD. Choline. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012:405-18
Yechiel Y. and Barenholz Y., Relationships between Membrane Lipid Composition and Biological Properties of Rat Myocytes, 1985