We hear a lot about vitamins and minerals such as B12, folate, magnesium, vitamin C, but there’s little or none said about the importance of dietary lecithin and choline. Are you consuming an adequate amount of acetylcholine, or other phospholipids? The odds are that you are not. The human body produces choline by methylation of phosphatidylethanolamine (from dietary sources such as lecithin) to form phosphatidylcholine in the liver by the PEMT enzyme. Phosphatidylcholine may also be consumed in the diet or by supplementation. Choline is oxidized to betaine which acts as an important methyl donor. It is well known that magnesium deficiency is widespread (57% of the population does not meet the U.S. RDA according to the USDA), but the numbers for choline deficiency are even more shocking.
According the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2003-2004, only about 10% of the population have an adequate intake of choline. This means about 90% of the population consumes a diet deficient in choline. Inadequate consumption of choline can lead to high homocysteine and risks such as cardiovascular disease, neuropsychiatric illness (Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia) and osteoporosis. Inadequate choline intake can also lead to fatty liver or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The most common symptoms of choline deficiency are fatty liver and/or hemorrhagic kidney necrosis. Consuming choline rich foods usually relieve these deficiency symptoms. Diagnosing fatty liver isn’t as simple as running liver enzyme tests since nearly 80% of people with fatty liver have normal levels of these enzymes according to a population study published in the journal Hepatology. In fact, in an experiment, 10 women were fed a diet low in choline. Nine developed fatty liver and only one had elevated liver enzymes. It has been clinically observed that supplementing Lecithin, or a Lecithin rich diet can lower levels of anxiety, help the nervous system, and even manage cardiac abnormal heart rhythms. The Milner Acetylcholine Protocol (MAP) uses lecithin to manage cardiac abnormal heart rhythms. The fundamental building blocks of all cell membranes are phospholipids. About 50% of the mass of most cell membranes are composed of phospholipids, and contain glycolipids and cholesterol. Adequate intake of phospholipids and glycolipids is important for the integrity of the cell membranes. Phospholipid supplementation has also been shown to help with mitochondrial dysfunction in patients with diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, chronic Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, and Gulf War Illness. Fatigue reduced about 40% in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients after lipid replacement therapy (supplementing phospholipids) according to the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.