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7 Phosphatidylcholine Benefits + Dosage & Side Effects

Written by Aleksa Ristic, MS (Pharmacy) | Reviewed by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Aleksa Ristic, MS (Pharmacy) | Reviewed by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:

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Phosphatidylcholine is a key component of our cells. Increased intake may improve mental, liver, and gut health, but the available clinical evidence is weak. Phosphatidylcholine injections are used for reducing fat deposits. Read more about its benefits, dosage, and side effects.

What Is Phosphatidylcholine?

Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is a molecule that contains two fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone with a phosphate group and choline.

It is found in every single cell of your body as a key component of the cell membrane [1].

Apart from its role in maintaining cell structure, phosphatidylcholine [2, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]:

  • builds a mixture of fats and proteins lining our lungs and enabling us to breathe.
  • is one of the main components of mucus that lines and protects our gut.
  • shields the nerves by increasing choline and acetylcholine levels in the brain
  • protects the liver
  • helps breaks down fats

Phosphatidylcholine levels may decrease as we age. For example, in the brain, there is a 10% reduction between age 40 and age 100, according to some researchers [2].

Because choline is needed to make phosphatidylcholine, low choline levels can limit its production. Choline deficiency can decrease phosphatidylcholine levels in the liver, leading to liver damage [8].

Phosphatidylcholine is also responsible for the production of very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) [9, 10].

Why Are Low PC Levels Bad?

  • Low levels of phosphatidylcholine in the brain may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease [11, 12]. On the other hand, high levels of docosahexaenoic acid (the fatty acid which is attached to phosphatidylcholine in the brain) were associated with a decreased risk of dementia in some studies [13, 14].
  • Low phosphatidylcholine levels in certain brain areas may be associated with schizophrenia [15, 16, 17].
  • Low levels of phosphatidylcholine in the liver are associated with fatty liver (NAFLD) [18].

Food Sources

Food sources of phosphatidylcholine include [19, 20]:

  • Egg yolks (6,771 mg/100g)
  • Pig liver (1,668 mg/100g)
  • Chicken liver (1,120 mg/100g)
  • Soybeans (917 mg/100g)
  • Squid (777 mg/100g)
  • Chicken breast (391 mg/100g)
  • Beef (408 mg/100g)
  • Peanuts (270 mg/100g)
  • Cod (331 mg/100g)
  • Spinach (37 mg/100g)
  • Potato (38 mg/100g)
  • Carrot (23 mg/100g)
  • Apple (21 mg/100g)
  • Cow’s milk (12 mg/100g)

Health Benefits of Phosphatidylcholine

Possibly Effective:

1) Ulcerative Colitis (IBD)

In four studies of 316 patients with ulcerative colitis, phosphatidylcholine (PC) supplementation reduced disease severity, improved quality of life, and induced remissions. It also decreased dependence on corticosteroids and resulted in complete therapy withdrawal in some patients [21, 22, 23, 24].

Modified-release PC (3.2 grams daily for 12 weeks) even improved the symptoms of drug-resistant ulcerative colitis. However, this trial was funded by the supplement manufacturer, which indicates a potential conflict of interest [22].

2) Infant Brain Development

Multiple reviews of human and animal trials have proclaimed choline a vital nutrient for fetal brain development. Optimal choline intake during pregnancy [25, 26, 27, 28, 29]:

  • Ensures proper brain structure and functioning
  • May enhance memory and cognition
  • Prevents birth defects and mental illnesses

According to one clinical review, prenatal phosphatidylcholine (PC) supplementation as a dietary source of choline may promote brain development in the fetus and offer protection against mental illnesses [29].

In a study of 49 mothers, those who received prenatal PC supplements reported “fewer attention problems and less social withdrawal” in their 40-month old children [30].

In 100 pregnant women, phosphatidylcholine supplementation prevented the delay in certain areas of brain development in fetuses that were genetically susceptible to schizophrenia [31].

However, prenatal PC (750 mg) didn’t enhance infants’ cognition in 140 women who consumed enough choline [32].

It may be that PC supplementation is beneficial only in cases of inadequate choline intake, but more research is needed to evaluate its effectiveness.

3) NSAID-Induced Stomach Ulcers

In three studies of 345 participants, phosphatidylcholine protected the stomach from injuries caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It’s important to note that the researchers chemically connected PC and tested drugs; taking them separately may not give the same results [33, 34, 35].

Studies on rats also showed the potential of phosphatidylcholine to reduce the toxicity of NSAIDs and increase their therapeutic properties [36, 37, 38, 39].

Insufficient Evidence:

No valid clinical evidence supports the use of phosphatidylcholine for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit.

4) Liver Health

Low levels of choline and phosphatidylcholine (PC) can contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in humans [40, 41].

A study using a combination of milk thistle (silybin), phosphatidylcholine, and vitamin E showed a significant improvement in liver enzymes, insulin resistance, and liver structure in 179 patients with NAFLD [42].

Very low levels of phosphatidylcholine can cause liver damage and even death in mice. An animal study showed that phosphatidylcholine can promote liver regeneration [43, 8].

In other animal studies, scientists observed the potential of choline and PC to prevent the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and increase the chance of survival after liver surgery [18, 43, 44].

5) Memory

Low levels of phosphatidylcholine are associated with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease in some patients [45].

In a study of 80 healthy young adults, phosphatidylcholine supplementation improved memory [46].

Phosphatidylcholine increased the levels of choline and acetylcholine in the brain, improved memory, and protected the brain in mice with dementia [47, 4, 48, 49].

6) Hepatitis B and C

In a trial of 176 patients. phosphatidylcholine helped treat chronic hepatitis C but not hepatitis B [50].

It did help treat chronic hepatitis B in a smaller trial of 15 patients [51].

Further research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of phosphatidylcholine for hepatitis B and C.

7) Fat Breakdown (Lipolysis)

Fat breakdown involves the breakdown of triglyceride into glycerol and free fatty acids. Phosphatidylcholine (PC) increases the production of PPAR-gamma receptor, responsible for the breakdown of fats [52, 53].

Judging by the clinical experience of some doctors, PC injections directly into the fat deposits can cause fat breakdown and may be used as an alternative to surgery. In the lack of controlled trials, we can’t tell if this treatment is safe and effective [54, 55].

PC injections reduced fat in the eyelids of 30 patients, acting as an alternative to eyelid surgery [56].

According to limited preliminary evidence, they may also help with lipomas, benign tumors caused by fat buildup. However, the researchers emphasized the need for further well-designed studies [57].

Animal and Cellular Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of phosphatidylcholine for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research. They should guide further investigational efforts but should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

8) Inflammation

Treatment with phosphatidylcholine decreased inflammation and white blood cell reaction related to arthritis in one study rats [58].

Dietary phosphatidylcholine improved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in mice by reducing inflammation. In another study on mice, it decreased inflammatory white blood cell levels and inflammation [59, 60].

In a cell study, scientists observed the ability of phosphatidylcholine to prevent the inflammation caused by TNF-alpha [61].

9) Nerve Protection

Inflammation can decrease the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain region important for learning and memory. Phosphatidylcholine prevented this decrease in mice by suppressing TNF-alpha [62].

Lecithin, a mixture of fats including phosphatidylcholine, increased antioxidant enzymes (MDA, CAT) in rat brains damaged by the lack of blood flow and oxygen [63].

10) Gallstones

In one study on mice, researchers observed the ability of dietary phosphatidylcholine to prevent the formation of gallbladder stones [64].

Possibly Ineffective:

According to preliminary clinical research, phosphatidylcholine supplementation may not help with:

  • Acute viral hepatitis (hepatitis A) [65]
  • Tardive dyskinesia (a movement disorder) [66]

Phosphatidylcholine Side Effects & Precautions

This list does not cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects. In the US, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch. In Canada, you may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

Phosphatidylcholine was safe and well-tolerated in most clinical trials. In a smaller number of patients, it caused side effects such as [29, 22, 23, 24]:

  • sweating
  • stomach upset
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Unlike most supplements, PC appears to be safe for pregnant women, but they should consult a doctor before supplementing.

PC injections are possibly safe when used in recommended intervals and doses. Possible side effects include [67] :

  • irritation
  • swelling
  • redness
  • itching
  • burning
  • bruising
  • pain
  • dizziness

Phosphatidylcholine injections directly in fat deposits may cause inflammation or tissue death (necrosis). The safety of long-term use is uncertain [68, 69].

Phosphatidylcholine injections directly in fat deposits should be avoided by pregnant women and people with heart disease, kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes or hypothyroidism, infections, active or previous autoimmune disease, or active skin disorders [70].

The Risk of Heart Disease

Byproducts of dietary phosphatidylcholine include trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which may increase the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease in excessive amounts [71, 72, 73].

However, the link between TMAO and heart disease is controversial and still debated in the scientific literature.

PC supplementation increased blood triglyceride levels in a study of 26 participants. However, in that same study, PC decreased homocysteine, which is a potential risk factor for heart disease [74].

Further studies should cast more light on the conflicting effects of phosphatidylcholine supplementation on heart health.

Phosphatidylcholine Supplements and Dosage

PC supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. In general, regulatory bodies aren’t assuring the quality, safety, and efficacy of supplements. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

The below doses may not apply to you personally. If your doctor suggests using PC, work with them to find the optimal dosage according to your health condition and other factors.

Phosphatidylcholine can be administered in capsules, tablets, and injections.

Clinical studies have used various oral phosphatidylcholine doses, ranging from 0.5-4 g per day for up to 12 weeks [75, 24, 23, 22].

Phosphatidylcholine injections for fat reduction contain between 40 cc and 60 cc [70].

User Experiences

The opinions expressed in this section are solely from the users who may or may not have a medical background. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment. Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on SelfHacked.

One user reported that using phosphatidylcholine for a few years reversed his fatty liver and returned his high liver enzymes back to normal.

Another user reported that over a period of nearly two months their belly fat “decreased tremendously.”

One user who took phosphatidylcholine for three years had outstanding results. They said that the difference for memory boost and overall health.

A user who received phosphatidylcholine injections said they were rushed to the ER twice due to low blood pressure after the therapy.

Where to Buy

Want More Targeted Ways to Enhance Brain Function?

If you’re interested in improving your cognitive function, we recommend checking out SelfDecode’s Limitless Mind DNA Protocol. It gives genetic-based diet, lifestyle and supplement tips that can help improve your cognitive function. The recommendations are personalized based on your genes.

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About the Author

Aleksa Ristic

Aleksa Ristic

MS (Pharmacy)
Aleksa received his MS in Pharmacy from the University of Belgrade, his master thesis focusing on protein sources in plant-based diets. 
Aleksa is passionate about herbal pharmacy, nutrition, and functional medicine. He found a way to merge his two biggest passions—writing and health—and use them for noble purposes. His mission is to bridge the gap between science and everyday life, helping readers improve their health and feel better.

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