Phosphatidylcholines (PC) are a class of phospholipids that incorporate choline as a headgroup. They are a major component of biological membranes and can be easily obtained from a variety of readily available sources such as egg yolk or soy beans from which they are mechanically extracted or chemically extracted using hexane. They are also a member of the lecithin group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues.
The name "lecithin" was originally defined from the Greek lekithos (Î»ÎµÎºÎ¹Î¸Î¿Ï‚, egg yolk) by Theodore Nicolas Gobley, a French chemist and pharmacist of the mid-19th century, who applied it to the egg yolk phosphatidylcholine that he identified in 1847 and finally completely described from a chemical structural point of view in 1874. Phosphatidylcholines are such a major component of lecithin that in some contexts the terms are sometimes used as synonyms. However, lecithin extract consists of a mixture of phosphatidylcholine and other compounds. It is also used along with sodium taurocholate for simulating fed- and fasted-state biorelevant media in dissolution studies of highly-lipophilic drugs.
Possible health benefits
Phosphatidylcholine is a vital substance that is in every cell in the human body. Thus some researchers have used mutant mouse models with severe oxidative damage as a model of "accelerated aging" to investigate the possible role of phosphatidylcholine supplementation as a way of slowing down aging-related processes and improving brain functioning and memory capacity in dementia. However, a systematic review of clinical trials in humans found that lecithin or phosphatidylcholine supplementation does not benefit patients with dementia.
Recent studies point to the many potential benefits of phosphatidylcholine for liver repair. One study shows phosphatidylcholine's healing effect with hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Phosphatidylcholine administration for chronic, active hepatitis resulted in significant reduction of disease activity in mice.
Some organizations promote the use of injected phosphatidylcholine, otherwise known as injection lipolysis, claiming the procedure can break down fat cells, and thus serve as an alternative to liposuction. It is important to note that while the procedure cites early experiments that showed lipolysis in cases of fat emboli, no peer-reviewed studies have shown any amount of lipolysis even remotely comparable to liposuction.
Phase IIa/b clinical trials performed at the Heidelberg University Hospital have shown that delayed release phosphatidylcholine is an anti-inflammatory, and secondly, is a surface hydrophobicity increasing compound with promising therapeutic potential in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.
Possible health risks
In addition to the increased caloric burden of a diet rich in fats like phosphatidylcholine, a recent report has linked the microbial catabolites of phosphatidylcholine with increased atherosclerosis through the production of choline, trimethylamine oxide, and betaine. However, the validity of this study is disputed because the form of choline used was contaminated with trimethylamine oxide (TMAO). A 1999 study by other authors who studied 46 different foods did not find choline-rich foods to cause TMAO production.