Phosphatidyl Choline (Phosphatidylcholine)
Phosphatidylcholine (derived from lecithin), a primary dietary source of choline, is composed of a phosphate group, 2 fatty acids, and choline. The composition of essential fatty acids in phosphatidylcholine determines its value in promoting health. When phosphatidylcholine is ingested, most of it is broken down into choline, glycerol free fatty acids, and the phosphate group, rather than being incorporated intact into cellular membranes.
Phosphatidylcholine is a phospholipid that is a major constituent of cell membranes. Phosphatidylcholine is also known as 1, 2-diacyl-:ussn:ue-glycero-3-phosphocholine, PtdCho and lecithin. The term lecithin itself has different meanings when used in chemistry and biochemistry than when used commercially. Chemically, lecithin is phosphatidylcholine. Commercially, it refers to a natural mixture of neutral and polar lipids. Phosphatidylcholine, which is a polar lipid, is present in commercial lecithin in concentrations of 20 to 90%. Most of the commercial lecithin products contain about 20% phosphatidylcholine.
Lecithins containing phosphatidylcholine are produced from vegetable, animal and microbial sources, but mainly from vegetable sources. Soybean, sunflower and rapeseed are the major plant sources of commercial lecithin. Soybean is the most common source. Plant lecithins are considered to be GRAS (generally regarded as safe). Egg yolk lecithin is not a major source of lecithin in nutritional supplements. Eggs themselves naturally contain from 68 to 72% phosphatidylcholine, while soya contains from 20 to 22% phosphatidylcholine.
The fatty acid makeups of phosphatidylcholine from plant and animal sources differ. Saturated fatty acids, such as palmitic and stearic, make up 19 to 24% of soya lecithin; the monounsaturated oleic acid contributes 9 to 11%; linoleic acid provides 56 to 60%; and alpha-linolenic acid makes up 6 to 9%. In egg yolk lecithin, the saturated fatty acids, palmitic and stearic, make up 41 to 46% of egg lecithin, oleic acid 35 to 38%, linoleic acid 15 to 18% and alpha-linolenic 0 to 1%. Soya lecithin is clearly richer in polyunsaturated fatty acids than egg lecithin. Unsaturated fatty acids are mainly bound to the second or middle carbon of glycerol.
Phosphatidyl choline is the active ingredient in lecithin. Lecithin is a fatty substance that is needed for a wide variety of crucial bodily functions, such as building cell membranes and helping nutrients move in and out of cells. Phosphatidyl choline, which is an important source of the B vitamin Choline, only comprises about 15% of the lecithin that we derive from natural food sources; however, lecithin supplements can contain a wide range of between 10% to 98% of this active ingredient. The higher the concentration, the more expensive the supplement.
Phosphatidyl choline breaks down fat deposits in the body, making it valuable in the prevention of atherosclerosis and heart disease. It is also essential to the liver, and helps strengthen its role in removing toxins from the body. As such, people afflicted with hepatitis and cirrhosis may find it beneficial. It can also enhance gallbladder health, and prevent gallstones. Choline is an essential nutrient frequently referred to as Vitamin B4. It is important for the structural integrity of cell membranes, methyl metabolism, cholinergic neurotransmission, transmembrane signaling, and lipid-cholesterol transport and metabolism. Basically, this means choline is integral in controlling fat and cholesterol buildup in the body, regulating the kidneys, liver and gallbladder, and increasing the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps the brain store and recall information. Choline deficiency can lead to hypertension, arteriosclerosis, cirrhosis and fatty degeneration of the liver.
Phosphatidyl choline is broken down into choline in the body, and a lack of choline will adversely affect healthy adults quickly. Studies have shown, in fact, that within 30 days of a choline deficient diet, indications of liver problems will manifest.