Phospho-lipid Phun!

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Cell membranes are largely composed of fats (along with some proteins). There are two main types of cell membrane fats, cholesterol and phospholipids. We’ll discuss cholesterol in a later post. For this article we will be addressing phospho-lipids.

Phospho-lipids are interesting chemical structure with a watery end which contains the mineral phosphorus (phospho-) and a fatty end (-lipid). Phospho-lipids help cell membranes maintain their integrity and structure. They also conduct electrical energy which helps the membrane maintain its battery-like charge. This electrical activity is important for the health and function of the internal cell environment. Nutrients enter in the cell in part via pores and channels on the membrane. The openings dilate or constrict at least partially in response to phospho-lipid generated electrical energy. They have a voltage-sensing property which allows them to open and close pores on cellular demand.

The electrical nature of phospho-lipids makes them especially important for brain and nerve cells (neurons), which are highly electrical in nature. Phospho-lipids are also important for skin health and play a particularly important role in maintaining skin softness and hydration.

Because phospho-lipids have a watery and fatty nature, they can help disperse dietary fats into digestive fluids. Bile is largely composed of phospholipids. The fats in cell membranes are protected from oxidation (rancidity) by phospho-lipids which bind the very active and oxidation-inducing metals iron and copper.

Because of the relationship of diseases to cell membrane health, taking advantage of phospho-lipid nutrition is an important step in the return to or the maintenance of health. While the body can make its own phospho-lipids, they do require the use of precious enzymes and energy so including them in the diet can be a helpful health strategy.

Also, if you have fat malabsorbtion, liver health issues or have had a gall bladder removed you may want to consider supplemental phospho-lipids to take advantage of their fat dispersing properties mentioned above. The same is true if you have neural problems such as Parkinson’s disease or cognitive issues such dementia, memory problems, or learning disorders. Up to 60% of the brain by weight is composed of phospho-lipids and similar compounds.

By far the best source of dietary phospho-lipids is eggs. Muscle and organ meats are good sources too as are wheat germ and peanuts. The fatty components of soy (not the protein) also contain phospho-lipids.

Supplemental phospho-lipids can also be obtained by using lecithin, either in its powder or liquid form. Taking 200 to 300 mg a day of choline and inostitol may also help improve the production of phospho-lipids.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition