The outer, fluid-like wall of your cells, called the “cellular membrane” is home of some very interesting and incredibly important compounds. The cell membrane is a dynamic compartment that enables all of the nutrients your body needs to get in to your cells, as well as for waste products to be removed from cells.
Additionally, that fluid cell membrane is critical for signaling communication and hormone activities.
Your cell membranes are composed primarily of two biologically active substances:
- Lipids – cholesterol & phospholipids
- Proteins – various amino acid linkages
Phospholipids are a unique kind of nutrient. Of their countless biological functions, phospholipids are the primary constituent in your cell membranes. They enable cells to have the fluidity necessary in order for your cells to work properly.
Phospholipids are themselves comprised of four nutrients: choline, inositol, ethanolamine and serine.
You may have heard of the emulsifier, lecithin. Lecithin is essentially a gooey, caramel-like substance which is composed of a high concentration of phospholipids such as choline. Egg yolks are an excellent example of a lecithin-containing food.
There is a plethora of research that shows the potentially important use of phospholipids for various health-related purposes. Most notably these include:
- GI Health – Especially with health issues such as colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Endocrine Health – The phospholipid serine is known to have a positive effect on lowering elevated levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol.
- As antioxidants – Choline is in fact a potent antioxidant, capable of protecting cells from free radicals.
- Brain health – Phospholipids are vitally important for brain function. The brain itself is largely composed of phospholipids. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is derived from phospholipids.
- Liver health – The #1 most important nutrient for those with fatty liver is phosphatidylcholine. Acting as an emulsifier, lecithin “de-fattens” the liver, creating healthy triglyceride/cholesterol balance.
- Methylation Cycle Function – More than 50% of methylation reactions involve phospholipids. And these methylation processes are vital for DNA and RNA synthesis.
PEMT Genetics & Nutrition
The gene PEMT (phosphatidylethanolmine methyltransferase) is a very important gene that is responsible for creating choline from ethanolamine. I have evidence to suggest that inherited gene mutations in PEMT can result in deficiencies of choline. And that is not good! Learn more about genetics and PEMT here.
Egg yolks are among the richest dietary sources of phospholipids. Other significant sources of phospholipids include: cream, sunflower and flax seeds, liver, shrimp, and poultry (dark meat).
If someone has PEMT mutations, it is very possible that your need for dietary choline may be higher. A good way to measure phospholipid levels and the whole pathway of nutrients involved, is in a blood plasma test (such as the Genova Diagnostics NutraEval).