The choline in phophatidylcholine is necessary for metabolism of fatty acids and for the transport of fats through cells. Phosphatidylcholine is one of the major components of cell membranes, making this substance essential for keeping cells intact.
Supplements of phosphatidylcholine are used for a variety of therapeutic reasons. For example, people with liver problems, including those with drug and alcohol-induced liver disorders, may benefit from supplements of phosphatidylcholine.
Phosphatidylcholine makes cholesterol more soluble and less able to cause hardening of the arteries. This benefit is said to be attributed to the fact that phosphatidylcholine has a high linoleic acid content. Linoleic acid is an essential “healthy fat.”
Phosphatidylcholine may also help people with bipolar disorder, a condition associated with low choline activity in the brain.
Phosphatidylcholine may help symptoms of bipolar disorder by increasing levels of choline in the brain. It is believed that this effect of phosphatidylcholine has some relationship to the way the prescription drug lithium, the most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drug for treating bipolar disorder, works.
Some researchers have also hypothesized that the ability of phosphatidylcholine to increase levels of acetylcholine in the brain might help people with Alzheimer’s disease, though clinical studies have not supported this theory. Still, people with mild to moderate dementia may benefit from supplements of phosphatidylcholine.
Phosphatidylcholine is available in supplement form, often as part of another compound. It is important to be aware that many commercial supplements with the label “phosphatidylcholine” may only be 35% phophatidylcholine.
Lecithin, a commonly used source of phosphatidylcholine, contains only 10-20% phosphatidylcholine. Pure preparations contain up to 98% phosphatidylcholine, and they are considered best since lower dosages are required, resulting in fewer side effects.
Since dosages vary widely depending on the actual amount of phosphatidylcholine in a particular supplement, it is important to read product labels when choosing a product.
The recommended dosage of a supplement that contains 90% phosphatidylcholine is 350 -500 mg three times per day for liver disorders, 500-900 mg three times per day to lower cholesterol, and 5,000 to 10,000 mg three times per day to treat bipolar disorder and dementia.
There have been few side effects reported with the use of phosphatidylcholine supplements other than gastrointestinal upset when large doses are used. High doses in the form of lecithin may cause a decrease in appetite as well.
Though phosphatidylcholine is considered useful in treating bipolar disorder, people with unipolar clinical depression should not use phosphatidylcholine because large doses can exacerbate that condition.