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The following article is reprinted from New Horizons newsletter, published by the Brewer Science Library. Single copies of the article may be printed for the reader's personal research and study. Reproduction in any other manner, format or location is expressly prohibited.

                   The  Important  Role of  Phospholipids
                                          by Christina L. White ã 2007
       (Revised and updated from articles first published in the Winter 2002,
New Horizons newsletter.)


    The cell membrane is the gateway to the cell.  It is absolutely vibrant with activity. The complexity of membrane activities is impossible to comprehend.  Our minds can’t even grasp the tiny size of the membrane, so small that the thickness of this piece of paper could have 10,000 of these membranes layered on top of each other.  Truly incomprehensible dimensions for our minds to grasp, yet we are all capable of understanding the food choices that will enhance membrane function and health.
     The amount and type of long-chain fatty acids in the diet tremendously alter the composition of the membrane.  For example, the types of fatty acids consumed and incorporated into the cell membranes  affect  many functions dependent upon the membrane such as: 1) fluidity, 2) transport through ion channels, 3)the binding of hormones, 4) regulation of receptors, 5) signaling, 6) and the production of the communication chemicals of the body, called eicosanoids.  Incorrect amounts and/or types of long chain fatty acids can likewise lead to a series of consequences cascading toward serious health problems.   
     The individual membranes of each of the 70 trillion cells of the human body, as well as the membranes of the components within the cells, depend upon a constant supply of the right kinds of fatty acids in order to have the correct structure to function properly.   Structure and function depend upon the correct balance of structural fats including cholesterol, oleic, palmitic and stearic fatty acids, as well as essential fatty acids known as omega 6 and omega 3.  Without the proper balance, membrane function is compromised
     When the membrane is compromised with too many trans fats, found in margarine and most prepared baked goods, and too high a percentage of cholesterol, the structure of the cell membrane becomes more rigid, and the actual shape of the cell is changed.  These less flexible membranes also have less fluidity. Proper fluidity is needed for the ease of transport of nutrients into the cell, as well as the equally important function of expulsion of waste materials out of the cell.
    The membrane is in a state of dynamic biological activity that is nearly impossible to comprehend.  It is out of the very structure of the membrane that fatty acids are metabolized to make short-lived chemicals called prostaglandins.  These prostaglandins are the communication messages sent out from each cell that control multiple activities throughout the body.  Depending upon the balance of  the fatty acids available the chemistry is either tipped to manufacture inflammatory or anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.

     The cell membrane is a bi-lipid layer of two fatty acid tails facing each other.  The outer layer of the cell contains mostly the phospholipids phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, while the inner layer contains predominantly phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylinositol, and phosphatidylethanolamine.  In the inner layer of the membrane are over 100 different complex protein molecules.  This inner layer is quite impermeable compared to the outer layer of the membrane which has a high degree of permeability and fluidity. 
   The two fatty acid tails of the membrane are in a constant state of intense movement, vibrating at millions of times a second!   The authors (Drs. Foster, Speight, and Kane) of The Detoxx Book, Detoxification of Biotoxins in Chronic Neurotoxic Syndrome, use almost spiritual wording to describe the importance of this continual vibration such as  “the singing backbone of life” and “vibratory song”.  That type of wording helps to elicit a greater sense of the awe and magnificence of the role of the cellular membrane in the body.

    One of the ardent proponents of supplementation with phosphatidylcholine (PC) is Dr. Sherry Rogers, a well-known, complementary health physician who is the author of numerous health books.  In her book, Depression, Cured At Last, she mentions obtaining phenomenal results using pure PC with patients who have various types of health problems.  She reports that her patients with chemical sensitivity, depression, and allergies all show significant health improvements from PC supplementation. 
    She reminds the reader of  the extremely toxic environment we live in and the extra stress this puts on our livers for detoxifying not only external chemicals, but also those body-produced wastes that need to be broken down by the liver and excreted. 
    PC helps the liver to convert the stronger form of estrogen, estradiol, to estriol, which is a more benign form.  Supplementation with PC may, therefore, help women suffering from estrogen related problems such as PMS, fibrocystic breast syndrome, and uterine fibroids.  
    Adequate levels of PC in the liver also help to prevent liver damage from various prescription medicines, as well as from alcohol, viruses, and numerous pollutant and toxic substances, most of which operate by damaging cell membranes. 
    PC supplementation has also been shown to be particularly beneficial for hepatitis B and C, which appears to affect growing numbers of our population.
    PC also enhances the bioavailability of other nutrients that are administered with it. It is a great emulsifier, breaking fats down into smaller particles.  It has been shown to be helpful in preventing gallstones due to this fat emulsifying action.  PC has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, and may be helpful in preventing diabetes.  
    The late Dr. Hans A. Nieper of Germany, focused much of his innovative work on restoring the health of the membrane through the use of the naturally occurring phospholipid metabolite called calcium EAP (phosphoric acid mono-{2-aminoethyl}-ester).  Dr. Nieper believed that inadequate amounts of this phospholipid  in the intracellular membrane was the cause of many illnesses.   He utilized both an oral and an intravenous form of this phospholipid complexed with the minerals calcium, magnesium and/or potassium. He found it to improve the condition of many diseases:  multiple sclerosis, diabetic nephropathy, diabetic retinopathy, immune thrombocytopathy, asthma, degenerative lung and small vessel diseases, as well as many other health disorders.

     The results of the following rat research study suggested that a  PC intake might significantly extend lifespan.  Unfortunately, the amount of PC used on a weight basis with the rats is much more than the amount that could be given to humans. Still, this research indicates that even in old age the membrane lipid composition can be positively altered, resulting in many physiological changes that enabled the rats to live significantly longer. 
    In this fascinating study a group of aged rats that were given PC infusions for an extended period of time increased their normal lifespan by an average of  36%.   The control group of untreated rats died at an average age of 34 months; some dying by 32 months and others living to 38 months.  Treatment with PC began with the study group of rats when they were 30 months old, already very old by rat standards.  They were given an initial PC infusion, followed by a second infusion a week later, and continuing infusions every two months.  They might have lived longer, but were sacrificed between 42 and 48 months, resulting in this amazing 36% increase in lifespan. 

     As membranes age there are significant changes in the percentages of the various phospholipids.  Research has shown that on the outer layer of the membrane the concentration of PC is reduced on aging cells.  At the same time, cholesterol levels are increased along with the other phospholipid, sphingomyelin (SM).  This decrease in PC levels is particularly pronounced in cells that have a low phospholipid turnover rate like the aorta and arterial walls.  In advanced aortic lesions, the content of SM may be as high as 70-80%; the ratio of PC/SM showing a 6-fold decrease with arterial aging.  
    This age-related change in the lipid composition of heart muscle cells of animals has been positively altered with  injections of PC.  The exciting results of animal studies have led to the administration of intravenous infusions of essential phospholipids in the form of PC to patients exhibiting various cardiovascular problems.  
     Alternative physicians have found that besides the general improvement of one’s health,  I.V. treatments given with a PC product called Plaquex (, may help some cardiovascular patients avoid bypass surgery, angioplasty or diabetic amputations.  The Plaquex product contains:  2500 mg of essential phospholipids (70% phosphatidylcholine), 1250 mg of deoxycholic acid, 10 mg vitamin E, 10 mg nicotinic acid, 10 mg adenosine triphosphate, 450 mg benzyl alcohol, and 120 mg of ethanol.  The Plaquex I.V. is administered slowly over at least 90 minutes. 
     A series of 20 to 40 of these infusions has been documented to affect human  physiology in several positive ways.  The infusions give quicker results, and may be the preferred choice for people who are at significant cardiac risk.  Many of the physicians utilizing the Plaquex protocol also include a series of calcium EDTA infusions.  Once cardiovascular patients have received a series of Plaquex I.V.’s and obtained stabilization, oral supplementation of PC is then used to maintain optimum PC levels.    

     The PK Protocol has been developed by Patricia Kane, PhD, who has been using it with several types of neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ALS, fibromyalgia, lymes, CFIDS, hepatitis, autism and other disorders.  She and the many physicians she has trained have reported some success with many of these difficult to treat disorders with the PK Protocol.
     One of the most important parts of the PK protocol involves an IV push of a stabilized PC product from Europe.   In contrast to the slow infusions of Plaquex explained above, this PC push is  fast (2-3 minutes), and  is usually  followed by injections of the powerful intracellular antioxidant glutathione.   In order to heal the membranes, a series (20 to 40) of these injections are given twice weekly for several months.  In cases of severe neurodegeneration, these injections may be given twice a day for five days a week for several weeks. 
     Dr. Kane has found through examination of the fatty acid profile in red blood cells that patients with neurodegenerative illnesses often have what are called renegade and odd chain fatty acids in their membranes that are the result of various biotoxins.  These renegade fatty acids and odd chain fatty acids can disrupt the very structure of the membranes and consequently also affect function. 
     The first and primary goal in her protocol is to facilitate membrane metabolism of these renegade fatty acids, thereby cleaning up the membrane, so to speak, and restoring it with appropriate fatty acids and phospholipids.  Dr. Kane has found that consumption of high amounts of EPA and DHA from fish oil as many health professionals promote, may end up suppressing membrane metabolism of these renegade fatty acids.
      The injectible program is also supported by an organic diet, oral supplements, and a liver detoxification aspect.   If injections are not readily available, oral supplementation  of 1800-3600 mg or more of PC is used on an ongoing basis.  Dr. Kane may also utilize supplementation of high amounts of GLA (gamma linoleic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid, from 3 to 5 capsules of high potency Evening Primrose Oil with 1300 mg per capsule), providing about 400 to 700 mg of GLA.  Although many other nutritionists recommend borage oil as a source of GLA, they point out that borage oil contains a fatty acid that isn’t advisable to consume in significant amounts.  The GLA is used because it is the precursor in the metabolic chain that leads to the production of the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGE1 series) as well as the main fatty acid controller and stimulator, arachidonic acid (AA), of metabolic functions.  Their experience is that high levels of EPA and DHA from fish oil will suppress the necessary metabolic functions of arachidonic acid and the other fatty acid metabolic chain that leads to the PGE1 series.  The red cell membrane test as well as the Visual Contrast Sensitivity Test is used to monitor the patient’s responses during the detoxification protocol. 
      This protocol also utilized liberal amounts of ground flaxseeds, and a balanced EFA oil which contains a ratio of 4:1 of omega 6 to omega 3, which has been determined by recent research to be the proper ratio. 
       The injections of PC help to restore the membranes of the cells throughout the body as well as being vital to the liver’s ability to detoxify.  The PK Protocol increases the metabolism from the membranes of the renegade fatty acids, heavy metals and biotoxins, and the bloodstream transports these compounds to the liver to be emptied into the bile.  In the liver, these toxins bind with the fats in the bile and are dumped into the intestine, but some toxins end up being reabsorbed from the intestine and deposited back in the liver again.  This cycle of reabsorption must be broken in order for the body to be relieved of its burden of toxins.  The detox portions of the PK Protocol emphasizes the role of bile in detoxification and the necessity to increase bile production as well as toxin binding in the intestine with supplements of chlorella for complete removal from the body. 
     In order to accomplish this, the PK Protocol uses supplementation of bile salts, as well as fat digesting enzymes.  A special product is used to assist in detoxification: butyrate salts of calcium and magnesium, which are short chain fatty acids that are the number one fuel for the cells that line the colon.  Butyrate fatty acids have been demonstrated to reduce ammonia levels, which are raised in some patients with poor liver detoxification abilities, contributing to brain fog.  Besides providing fuel for the colon mucosal cells, it has been suggested that butyrate can help to clear renegade fatty acids from the liver. 
      To facilitate greater detoxification of these odd chain and extra long fatty acids from the body, there are several special detox protocols used.  A liver flush uses a special group of supplements for a few weeks that prepare the body for “the big plunge” of liver detox.  They also suggest something called “the intestinal peel”, and the “butyrate detox enema”; all protocols that definitely require some professional health care guidance.
      This detox protocol works at building and healing the membrane, while simultaneously emphasizing detoxing.  Liquid trace minerals and an oral electrolyte concentrate are also an important part of the protocol, as well as liberal amounts of water. 
      Raising the level of glutathione, both through injection and/or diet, is also part of the protocol.   Glutathione facilitates the removal of heavy metals like mercury, as well as other neurotoxins, and is of primary importance in one phase of liver detoxification.  To raise levels of glutathione through oral means, the protocol uses supplementation  with undenatured, bioactive whey protein, as well as selenium, lipoic acid, milk thistle and other supplements.   Each person’s chemistry is considered to determine inclusions of other possible supplements such as: carnitine, carnosine, biotin, bromelain, branched chain amino acids, B complex, magnesium taurate and other supplements.
    Patricia Kane works out of the Haverford Wellness Center in Pennsylvania and can be reached for an appointment at 888-320-8338.   An informative article, Phosphatidylcholine Life’s Designer Molecule, on the benefits of PC can be found by putting the title of that article in a Google search or by viewing it at her website:  
     Research has indicated that the levels of  PC in the body gradually decline over 3 months after discontinuation of a program of infusion or oral supplementation of PC.   The high beneficial levels of PC can be maintained with oral supplementation.  One of the laboratory technicians from a primary manufacturer of PC products stated that nine grams of oral PC can “last” in the body for four days.  People who do not like to supplement every day could consider that type of dosage schedule. 
     Many nutritionists recommend  3 to 4 grams of PC on a daily basis for several months to provide enough PC for membrane saturation to occur.  They also suggest at least 2 grams a day as a maintenance dosage.   Obviously, how much someone may need depends upon the balance of phospholipids in their cell membranes.  
    Some physicians promote the most concentrated capsules of PC available, called PhosChol, which provide 900 mg of PC in each capsule  With this product people only need 4 capsules a day to obtain 3200 mg, although this product is much more expensive.  PhosChol also comes in a liquid form, but it is quite viscous and requires mixing in juice for most people to tolerate it.  
     There are other less expensive forms of PC available in capsule form, generally providing about 300 to 400 mg of PC per capsule, but several of the major manufacturers of PC and other phospholipids have all suggested that the less concentrated forms of PC  have some amount of other phosphatides in them which may compete for absorption, thereby lowering the amount of PC absorbed. 
     The most inexpensive forms of PC are from granular lecithin, which have a full range of all the phosphatides in them.   An organic and non-GMO (non genetically modified) source of granular lecithin from Now Foods provides 2300 mg of PC in two tablespoons, but since all the phosphatides are competing for the same absorption sites, perhaps the full 2300 mg of PC will not be absorbed.   Granular lecithin has a nutty taste and can easily be eaten right off the spoon or mixed in foods.  Those two tablespoons also provide significant amounts of phosphatidylinositol, a phospholipid that is predominantly located on the inside of the cell membrane.  Again, to reiterate, the concern is that there are several different phospholipids all competing for absorption, and so although two tablespoons of  this lecithin have 2300 mg of PC, research has not been found that documents what percentage of that is absorbed as PC.   
     Supplementation with PC may offer some exciting health benefits for a wide range of people.  PC is a supplement that helps the liver do its job better, helps to keep fats emulsified and possibly from sticking to the arterial walls, and helps to maintain the proper ratio of phospholipids on the cell membrane, possibly affecting age-related changes. 
     Oral supplements may be very helpful for people with minor health problems, but the chronic and serious neurodengerative illnesses may require a series of injections in order to obtain any significant help.  I.V. treatment with either 90 minute infusions of Plaquex or even the quick injections of imported PC, both involve many office visits and high costs, as well as a commitment to dietary restrictions and consumption of a significant supplement program.  This kind of program is obviously for people who are willing and able to spend enough time and money to follow the protocol to completion, but the possibility for chronically ill individuals to be relieved of their burden of symptoms from this protocol is very encouraging. 


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