Phosphatidylcholine is a key component of our cells. Supplementing with it may improve mental, liver, and gut health, and protect nerves and improve memory. Phosphatidylcholine injections are also used for reducing fat. Read more to find out about its benefits, dosage, and side effects.

What Is Phosphatidylcholine?

Phosphatidylcholine 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]:

  • is an integral component of the pulmonary surfactant – a mixture of fats and proteins lining our lungs that make it possible for us to breathe.
  • is one of the main components of mucus that lines and protects our gut.
  • improves communication between nerves by increasing choline and acetylcholine levels in the brain
  • improves liver health
  • 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 [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 failure [8].
Phosphatidylcholine is also responsible for the production of very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) [9, 10].

Why Are Low Levels Of Phosphatidylcholine Bad?

  • Low levels of phosphatidylcholine in the brain are associated with Alzheimer disease [11, 12]. On the other hand, high levels of docosahexaenoic acid (the fatty acid which is attached to phosphatidylcholine in the brain) are associated with a decreased risk of dementia [13, 14].
  • Low phosphatidylcholine levels in certain brain areas are associated with schizophrenia [15, 16, 17].
  • Low levels of phosphatidylcholine in the liver are associated with fatty liver (NAFLD) [18].
  • Very low levels of phosphatidylcholine caused liver damage in mice [8].
  • Low levels of phosphatidylcholine are associated with ulcerative colitis [19].

Health Benefits of Phosphatidylcholine

1) Improves Memory

Low levels of phosphatidylcholine are associated with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease [20].
A study of 80 healthy young adults found that phosphatidylcholine supplementation improved memory [21].

Phosphatidylcholine increases the levels of choline and acetylcholine in the brain and improves memory and protects the brain in mice with dementia [22, 4, 23, 24].

2) Improves Liver Health

Very low levels of phosphatidylcholine can cause liver damage and even death in mice [8]. An animal study showed that phosphatidylcholine can promote liver regeneration [25].

Low levels of choline and phosphatidylcholine can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in humans [26, 27]. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as the name implies, is a disease in which fat build up in the liver due to causes other than alcohol.

A study using a combination of milk thistle (silybin) and phosphatidylcholine treatment showed a significant improvement in liver enzymes, insulin resistance, and liver tissue in 179 patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease [28].

Choline supplementation increases the ratio of phosphatidylcholine/phosphatidylethanol (PE) in the liver. This may prevent the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and increase the chance of survival after liver surgery [18, 25, 29].

3) Helps Treat Viral Hepatitis

A trial in 176 patients showed that phosphatidylcholine helped treat chronic hepatitis C but not hepatitis B [30].

Another study trial of 15 patients showed that phosphatidylcholine helped treat chronic hepatitis B [31].

However, phosphatidylcholine was not effective in treating acute viral hepatitis in a study of 22 patients [32].

4) Increases Fat Breakdown (Lipolysis) And Weight Loss

Fat breakdown involves the breakdown of triglyceride into glycerol and free fatty acids [33].
Phosphatidylcholine increases the production of PPAR-gamma receptor, responsible for the breakdown of fats [34].

Phosphatidylcholine injections directly into the fat tissue can cause fat breakdown and can be used as an alternative to surgery. They can also help with lipomas, benign tumors caused by the buildup of fat [35, 36, 37].

A study of 13 women showed that phosphatidylcholine injections reduced body fat and can be used for weight loss intervention [38].

Phosphatidylcholine injections reduced fat in the eyelids of 30 patients, acting as an alternative to eyelid surgery [39].

However, in a study of 26 subjects, phosphatidylcholine supplementation increased triglyceride levels in the blood [40].

5) May Reduce Inflammation

Treatment with phosphatidylcholine decreased inflammation and white blood cell reaction related to arthritis in rats [41].

Dietary phosphatidylcholine improved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in mice [42].

Dietary phosphatidylcholine decreased inflammatory white blood cell levels and inflammation in mice [43].

A cell study showed that phosphatidylcholine prevents the inflammation caused by TNF-α [44].

6) May Protect Neurons

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 decreasing TNF-alpha levels [45].

Lecithin, a mixture of fats including phosphatidylcholine, increased antioxidant enzymes (MDA, CAT) in rat brains damaged by a lack of blood flow and oxygen [46].

7) May Improve Fetal Brain Development

Prenatal phosphatidylcholine supplementation may promote normal brain circuit function in the fetus and decreases the risk of mental illnesses [47].

In a study of 100 pregnant women, phosphatidylcholine supplementation ensured proper brain development in the fetuses’ brains and prevented the delay in certain areas of brain development in fetuses that were genetically susceptible to schizophrenia [48].

8) May Improve Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

A case study of a bipolar boy showed that phosphatidylcholine supplementation improved sleep and helped with his symptoms of hypomania (a mild form of mania, which is a period of euphoria or great excitement) [49].

In one study, high phosphatidylcholine levels in the white matter of the brain were associated with bipolar disorder. However, another study of 104 adults found no changes in phosphatidylcholine levels between people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or healthy individuals [15, 50].

9) Improves Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis (IBD)

Four studies of 316 patients with ulcerative colitis found that phosphatidylcholine supplementation reduced disease severity and improved quality of life. It also decreased dependence on corticosteroids in patients taking them [51, 19, 52, 53].

10) May Protect Against Damage From NSAIDs

Studies of 345 healthy subjects showed that phosphatidylcholine protected the stomach from injuries caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) [54, 55, 56].

Studies also showed that phosphatidylcholine reduces the toxicity of anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and increased their therapeutic properties in rats [57, 58, 59, 60].

11) May Prevent Gallstones

Dietary phosphatidylcholine prevented the formation of gallbladder stones in mice [61].

Limitations and Caveats

There is a lack of human trials to support some benefits of phosphatidylcholine supplementation. Further clinical trials are needed to confirm its benefits in humans.

Side Effects & Precautions

While there are no reported side effects in the literature, users report the following side effects of oral phosphatidylcholine:

  • excessive sweating
  • stomach upset
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Side effects of phosphatidylcholine injections include [62] :

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

Phosphatidylcholine injections directly in a fatty growth may cause inflammation or tissue death (necrosis). Safety of long-term use is uncertain [63, 64].

Phosphatidylcholine injections directly in a fatty growth 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 [65].

Phosphatidylcholine May Increase The Risk of Heart Diseases

Byproducts of dietary phosphatidylcholine include choline, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), and betaine, which increase the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), coronary heart disease, stroke, and other heart diseases. Mainly TMAO increases the risk of heart diseases but choline and betaine produce TMAO [66, 67, 68].

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

Phosphatidylcholine supplementation may increase triglyceride levels in the blood [40].

However, in 26 healthy men, phosphatidylcholine decreased homocysteine levels, which are a potential risk factor for heart disease, compared to placebo [69].

Natural Sources

Food sources of phosphatidylcholine include [70, 71]:

  • 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)

Supplementation

Dosage

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

Clinical studies have used various oral phosphatidylcholine doses, ranging from 0.5 g to 4 g per day for up to 12 weeks [51, 53, 52, 19].

Phosphatidylcholine injections for fat reduction contain between 40 cc and 60 cc [65].

User Experiences

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.”
A user who received phosphatidylcholine injections said they were rushed to the ER twice due to the therapy: “My blood pressure plummeted and required 4 bags of IV fluid before I stabilized. There are serious adverse effects to mesotherapy. The public needs to know there ARE risks other than swelling and bruising.”
One user who took phosphatidylcholine for three years had outstanding results. They said that “The difference is very obvious if I miss a few days. Though I take phosphatidylcholine primarily as a memory boost, I believe it has done wonders for my overall health.”

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About the Author

Anastasia Naoum, MS (health informatics)

MS (Health Informatics)

Anastasia holds an MSc in Health Informatics from the Sheffield University, an MSc in Health Economics from the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and a BSc in Economics from the University of Macedonia.

Anastasia grew up in a medical environment, as both her parents are doctors and developed from a young age a passion for medicine and health. She has worked in several institutions and associations which promoted healthy living and sustainable healthcare systems. Currently, she is leading a green life, sailing with her boyfriend across Europe, living in their sailboat with the help of solar and wind power, minimizing CO2 production.

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