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What is a Phosphatidyl Choline?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 June 2014
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Phosphatidyl choline, more properly phosphatidycholine, is a molecule which can provide an excellent source of choline, a chemical compound which is necessary for healthy bodily function. This molecule belongs to a family of molecules known as phospholipids, all of which share the trait of having a long “tail” made from chains of fatty acids, and a hydrophilic head made from a phosphate group. In the case of phosphatidyl choline, the head is attached to a choline molecule.

Choline plays a number of important roles in the body. It is critical to cell signaling all over the body, including in the neurons of the brain, and it is involved in the body's metabolism, particularly of fats. In the liver, choline maintains high liver function by ensuring that fats are processed, rather than being allowed to deposit on the liver and inhibit liver function. Humans can get choline from many sources, phosphatidyl choline among them, and a true choline deficiency is quite rare.

Two common sources of phosphatidyl choline are egg yolks and soy beans. This compound is a major component in lecithin, and many people who take lecithin supplements are taking those supplements to access the phosphatidyl choline inside. People who eat a balanced and healthy diet usually access all of the choline they need, although supplements are available. When phosphatidyl choline enters the body, the body breaks it down so that it can utilize the fatty acid chains and the choline molecules.

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This molecule can help reduce atherosclerosis, in which deposits of fat build up in the arteries, and it can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Studies indicate that phosphatidyl choline may also be useful for people with certain neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease, and it can benefit people suffering from depression. Liver and gallbladder function can also be supported with phosphatidyl choline supplements. People should not attempt to address such conditions with phosphatidyl choline or other supplements without consulting a doctor.

Because this molecule helps with fat metabolism, phosphatidyl choline is sometimes added to supplements which claim to “burn fat.” People should be aware that many of these supplements are not regulated, or regulated only loosely, and they may contain an assortment of ingredients, some of which could potentially be harmful. For people who are unhappy with their weight, there are alternatives such as exercise and dietary control which are usually more suitable for weight management than taking supplements, many of which work on only a temporary basis.

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