I remember first hearing about the benefits of consuming high amounts of phospholipid-rich foods when two colleagues of mine reported that eating 6-12 raw eggs daily resulted in significant health improvement in people suffering from multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s Disease. My interest in phospholipid-rich foods was piqued, because both of these conditions are autoimmune in nature, and as such result in high amounts of tissue destruction and inflammation.
Phospholipids are one of the primary constituents of all cellular membranes. Some of the key biological functions of phospholipids include acting as secondary signal transducers in cells. Additionally, phospholipids are emulsifiers, which allow lipids and fluids to disperse evenly, and as such facilitates smoother transport across cell compartments.
Some of the most common phospholipids are the choline-phosphatides such as sphingomyelin and phosphatidylcholine.
Sphingomyelin is a special phospholipid that is found in high concentrations in myelin sheath, the encasement of nerve tissue, as well as in nerve cell fibers. It is the myelin sheath that degenerates in multiple sclerosis. Very recent research on phosphatidylcholine has demonstrated its potent anti-inflammatory effects, as well as its unique therapeutic effects in inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis. Other studies on phosphatidylcholine have shown its protective effect on hepatitis A, B and C.
Other phospholipids, such as phosphatidylserine have demonstrated anti-stress effects, memory and mood-improving effects. This phospholipid is often recommended to reduce high levels of cortisol, especially at nightime. Studies suggest that phosphatidylserine may have a strong benefit on the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis, which regulates and orchestrates the stress response.
Food Sources Of Phospholipids
Egg yolks are very rich sources of phospholipids, as is cream and organic liver. Organic beef brain is likely the highest available source of phospholipids, although this once, traditionally consumed food is rarely appreciated or ingested anymore.
Soy lecithin is a common source of phospholipids, however there is question to its use due to the high amount of genetically modified soy, as well as the potential that most soy-derived lecithin may be hexane extracted.