Phosphatidylcholine: The active substance from lecithin for liver and vascular health

Gebhardt, P. (2018). Phosphatidylcholine: The active substance from lecithin for liver and vascular health. Wellness Foods and Supplements, (3), 52-55.

A table showing the phosphatidylcholine and choline content of different foods.
Choline is contained in the form of phosphatidylcholine in different amounts in food.
The picture shows a table with the contents of phosphatidylcholine and choline of different lecithins.
Lecithins are components of cellular membranes. They are removed from crude plant oils in the production process. Liquid lecithin still contains rests of the oil. Lecithins are refined by removing the oil and by enriching the phospholipid phosphatidylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine is the major phospholipid in the cellular membranes of animal and plant cells.

Fatty liver disease is characterized by the incorporation of fat into the liver cells. The disease can progress to an inflammatory form, that leads to fibrosis (scarred tissue remodeling) and an increasing loss of function of the organ.
Phosphatidylcholine forms the quantitatively most prominent phospholipid in the membranes of animal and plant cells. It is the major source of the phosphatidylcholine precursor choline and is supplied with food in varying quantities. Especially low-fat diets can result in reduced intake.
Phosphatidylcholine is an amphiphilic („both-loving“) molecule. It consists of a polar, „water-friendly“ head group and a lipophilic, „fat-loving“ tail group. In the liver, fats are „packaged“ in phosphatidylcholine. The polar head groups form a shell, that makes the resulting fat droplets („lipoproteins“) transportable in an aqueous environment. In the absence of phosphatidylcholine, fats formed in the liver can no longer be released into the blood. Increasing accumulation of fat leads to steatosis of the organ.
The frequent intake of alcohol can also cause fatty degeneration of the liver. Since alcohol is very energy-containing, increased intake is associated with decreased food intake and decreased intake of important nutrients such as phosphatidylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine deficiency can promote the pathogenesis of alcohol-induced liver damage.
In addition, phosphatidylcholine is the most relevant source of methyl groups in the diet. Methyl groups are needed for the remethylation of the metabolic intermediate homocysteine to methionine. Increased homocysteine levels are considered a risk factor for arteriosclerosis. Phosphatidylcholine contributes to normal homocysteine metabolism.
Against this background, the European Food Safety Authority has set adequate daily intake levels for choline of 400 mg for adults, 480 mg for pregnant women and 520 mg for lactating women. This is equivalent to an amount of about 3.5 g of phosphatidylcholine and corresponds to an amount of about 12 g Lecihin (with a phosphatidylcholine content of 30 %).