Phosphatidylcholine Review: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects

Phosphatidylcholine, one of the essential phospholipids, is often used to synthesize Acetylcholine which is a critical neurotransmitter found inside the brain. This endogenously produced phospholipid is important for neurological, pulmonary, hepatic, and gastric health as it is an important source of choline. Read more to know everything about it!

Even if you have no connection to medical or health background, I am sure you would have still heard about the word “Acetylcholine”. 

Acetylcholine is one of the most critical neurotransmitters which helps in the transmission of nerve impulses (1).

Lower levels of Acetylcholine can lead to decreased cognition, memory, and learning abilities, thus causing many neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

Okay, so the question is “Where does Acetylcholine come from?”

The answer to this is Phosphatidylcholine (PC).

And, yes that is what we are talking about today in this article.  

Phosphatidylcholine or PC, an endogenously produced phospholipid, is responsible for several important functions related to neurological health, respiratory health, liver metabolism, etc. 

Let’s dig into the precise details and decide whether consuming Phosphatidylcholine supplements is worth enough or not. 

What is Phosphatidylcholine?

Structurally speaking, Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is a phospholipid with two fatty acids, a choline molecule, and a phosphate group connected to a glycerol molecule (2).

Also, sometimes known as Lecithin (despite both being different), it forms a major part of our cell membranes, particularly found on the outer monolayer. Just to clear the confusion, Lecithin is collectively referred to as Phosphatidylcholine and Phosphatidylserine (3). 

Not only this, dipalmitoyl Phosphatidylcholine is a critical component of the lung/pulmonary surfactant which reduces surface tension in the lungs, and prevents it from collapsing (4).  

Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is also found circulating in the blood plasma at high levels as it makes up the lipoprotein called HDL.  

Phosphatidylcholine is synthesized in our body partly through the choline that we consume in our diets. Meat and dairy are the most common foods that humans consume with high choline levels, however, there are some vegetarian-friendly choline-rich foods as well, including soybeans and peanuts.

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How Does Phosphatidylcholine Work? 

Because Phosphatidylcholine contains choline, it ensures that Acetylcholine levels are kept optimal in the human body. It does this by providing a constant supply of choline for the biochemical pathway to occur. 

Some research suggests that Phosphatidylcholine reduces the lipids into other forms that could otherwise accumulate and cause fatty-liver disease. It is also hypothesized that Phosphatidylcholine may provide treatment against fatty tumors by breaking down the fat cells. 

Because it forms a major part of our cell membranes, it keeps the membranes intact and maintains its integrity. It prevents any type of inflammation and drug-related effects on the cell membrane. Some evidence also suggests that it assists in membrane-mediated cell signaling. 

Benefits of Phosphatidylcholine

It has widespread effects on our body because it is found at higher levels in our body. Let’s know more about each of the benefits offered by the PC. 

Memory

One of the studies suggested that intaking Phosphatidylcholine led to statistically significant improvements in explicit learning.

Similar memory improvement results were found in an animal study on mice with low acetylcholine brain levels treated with PC.

Brain and Neuron Protection

Limited studies have found the support for the role of supplemental PC in protecting brain cells, or neurons.

In one study on rats, one group was treated with PC before and after administration of a chemical that leads to neural inflammation while another group was not. It was found that PC led to decreased hippocampal neurogenesis by lowering TNF-α concentrations. Important to know that TNF-α is a major contributor when it comes to damage from inflammation (5).

Liver Detox/Fatty Liver

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a very common disease in Western countries that is characterized by the buildup of fat in the liver. Unfortunately, there are no good treatments available, and those who are diagnosed need to participate in lifestyle transformation with the hopes of slowing the progression of the disease.

Low hepatic availability of both choline and PC has been tied to the pathogenesis of this hepatic disorder (7). 

Increased levels of Phosphatidylcholine cause the breakdown of fats, thus minimizing the accumulation of fatty acids in the liver and mitigating the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. 

Fat Loss

Subcutaneous phosphatidylcholine injections have been used for the purpose of reducing subcutaneous fat for decades and have been proven to help in fat loss. When administered this way by an experienced doctor, there are few risks associated with this treatment.

Supplementation with PC, however, has shown no clear effect on blood lipids or weight loss. In fact, in one study on healthy humans, it was found that taking this compound actually led to a slightly increased concentration of triacylglycerol as it played a role in lipolysis.

Improving Sleep

Very limited studies support the idea that increased PC levels may lead to improved sleep.

One case study on a single boy with bipolar disorder found that supplementation with this nootropic led to improved sleep. Another study found that increased saliva PC concentration may help to improve airway patency in those with obstructive sleep apnoea.

Managing Ulcerative Colitis 

Numerous animal studies have found that PC may be a useful anti-inflammatory compound.

Evidence suggests that Ulcerative Colitis is often linked with lower levels of PC. Taking PC supplementation may improve the intestinal mucosa and reduce inflammation (7).  

May Improve Cardiovascular Health

As stated earlier, Phosphatidylcholine circulates in blood plasma as a major component of lipoprotein, called HDL. 

HDL, often referred to as “good cholesterol”, improves our cardiovascular health and minimizes any risk of developing atherosclerosis. 

PC supplementation ensures that HDL levels are kept optimal and a person has a lower risk of developing any metabolic disorders, such as arterial blockage, etc. 

Bipolar Disorder

Numerous studies have found benefits of lecithin in those diagnosed with bipolar disorder, however, fewer have shown benefits of just PC. While lecithin does contain PC, it is also made up of phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylinositol, and phosphatidic acid. It is believed that many of the benefits of lecithin are because of the PC content.

In one case study of a boy with bipolar disorder, it was found that supplementation with PC led to recovery from hypomania symptoms and insomnia for the full 14 months of the study (8).

Dosage: How Much Phosphatidylcholine Should I Take?

There are no general dosage guidelines available. However, most people opt for 840 milligrams twice daily as it seems to work well for them. 

I would recommend starting low and then gradually increasing your daily dose. 

Side Effects and Interactions 

PC is generally well tolerated and does not come with many side effects. When taken orally at higher dosages, the most common side effects are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Excessive sweating

It is observed that Phosphatidylcholine taken alongside Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChE) may result in a spike in Acetylcholine levels, thus resulting in muscle weakness, seizures, etc. 

Moreover, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised not to take Phosphatidylcholine. 

User Reviews and Experience 

It’s time to follow the ritual and know about people’s experiences with Phosphatidylcholine supplementation. 

One of the Reddit users said, 

“I recently developed memory/brain fog issues due to some autoimmune problems that I’m still working through. After a lot of tests, I’ve found that Phosphatidylcholine supplements are the only thing that significantly breaks through my memory issues – even though it dampens my mood a little.”

u/megablue 1 left a review saying, 

“I’ve started taking soy lecithin 3 days ago. 3x 1200mg pills per day, the first 20-30mins of taking it on an empty stomach, I immediately feel sharper and more alert, no more foggy brain. it affects me a lot more than a good cup of coffee in the morning. I think I wasn’t as alert mentally sharp for many years. the mental clarity is amazing, I am able to concentrate much, much better as well. However, I realized I had trouble falling to sleep, maybe I will start reducing the daily dose.”

Another user Helena K left a review, 

“I can feel the difference if I skip a few days.”

Where to Buy Phosphatidylcholine? 

Because a lot of people want to meet the requirements of choline, considering the demand, many online stores claim to sell the most authentic form of Phosphatidylcholine. However, the latter is not true. 

It is important to online buy from trusted vendors, especially when the product is related to your health. 

One of the brands that we trust is Double Wood Supplements and that is why I would recommend buying from this vendor and making your experience worthwhile. 

Phosphatidylcholine by Double Wood Supplements 

While Double Wood Supplements offers only the PC capsules, it offers three different products, which are individual phosphatidylcholine, the double pack as well as the triple pack. 

All the different products are 210mg, 420mg, and 630mg capsules alongside 1200mg mixed. 

With all of its products manufactured in the USA, and third-party tested as well, Double Wood Supplements gains the trust of its customers. Also, it’s gluten-free as well as Non-GMO, thus making it a well-accepted supplement. 

With a price range of $19.95 to $49.95, Double Wood Supplements offers authentic yet high-quality PC in a reasonable price range. 

Not only this, but if you subscribe to the brand, you will get an additional 10% discount.  

Pros

  • Three different products 
  • Third-party tested 
  • Multiple power variants are available 

Cons

  • Trace amounts of soy present
  • Fewer customer reviews of the product 

Phosphatidylcholine vs Other Compounds 

Phosphatidylserine vs Phosphatidylcholine

Both phosphatidylserine (PS) and PC are phospholipids found naturally in the cells of our bodies. PC is found in the outer layer of cell membranes, with PS found in the inner layer.

Perhaps as the biochemical pathway is interlinked, PS can actually be synthesized from PC in the brain.

The benefits of these two phospholipids are quite different. If you are looking for a boost in cognition, PS is overall a better choice, whereas PC is useful as a source of choline and for helping with particular conditions, such as fatty liver disease and ulcerative colitis.

Choline Bitartrate vs Phosphatidylcholine

40% choline by weight, choline bitartrate is one of the most affordable sources of choline on the market. If you want to boost your dietary intake of choline, it is definitely a good option.

Choline bitartrate is known to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease blood pressure. It is also found to be effective in improving mood swings and enhancing athletic performance in individuals.  

Research suggests that Choline bitartrate is a more potent supplement and has better bioavailability. 

Alpha GPC vs Phosphatidylcholine 

Alpha GPC is a highly bioavailable source of choline for the brain compared to Phosphatidylcholine. It can be used in the synthesis of ACh, and thus has nootropic benefits of its own. Research suggests that it helps those suffering from age-related cognitive decline.

For overall memory, learning, and protection against age-related cognitive decline, Alpha GPC is a better option for sure. On the other hand, PC supplementation should be a preferable option in treating and managing conditions such as Ulcerative Colitis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Is Phosphatidylcholine Legit?

Okay, so if you were to take my opinion if you are purely looking for any supplement that can possibly increase your choline levels, there are other better options that you can choose over Phosphatidylcholine. 

Perhaps if you are looking for a supplement that can manage your ulcerative colitis, enhance memory and learning a bit, help minimize inflammation, and affect your cardiovascular health, Phosphatidylcholine is definitely a top pick for that.  

It all narrows down to your purpose of intake and what are you expecting exactly. 

Is Phosphatidylcholine good for the gall bladder? 

Very little research involving mice more prone to suffer from cholelithiasis suggests that a diet enriched with Phosphatidylcholine prevents gall stone formation. 

What is Phosphatidylcholine also known for? 

Dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine, also known as Lecithin is a major component of pulmonary surfactant and is often used in the L/S ratio to calculate fetal lung maturity.

Is phosphatidylcholine the same as lecithin?

Phosphatidylcholine is a major component of lecithin, a yellow-brown fatty substance found in egg yolk, organ meats, nuts, and spinach. Although lecithin contains substances other than phosphatidylcholine such as phosphatidylserine, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably in the medical literature.

Does phosphatidylcholine dissolve fat?

Phosphatidylcholine is the primary active ingredient contained in cosmetic injection products used to “dissolve” fat.

How long can you take phosphatidylcholine?

When taken orally, it is possibly safe in a dose of up to 30 grams per day for 6 weeks, or up to 6 grams per day for 2 years.

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18050502/
2. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/53479173
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30000831/
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8726232/
5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29186713/
6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23537027/
7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15951544/
8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8874839/

Kartik Kumar Rathi

Kartik is a Doctor in training currently in his second year of medical school with the ultimate goal of becoming a successful cardiologist, he currently contributes to health blogs, research papers and also founded a social health startup to help educate others.