Phosphatidylcholine for Cognitive support

Phosphatidylcholine is a substance that is found in literally every single cell of our bodies. The more commonly used name, lecithin was taken from the Greek lekithos and pinned by Theodore Nicolas Gobley, a chemist and pharmacist of the mid-19th century, when he identified it in egg yolk in the mid 1800s. In fact, Phosphatidylcholines (PC) are a class of phospholipids that incorporate choline as a headgroup and are a major component of biological membranes and can be easily obtained from a variety of readily available sources, such as egg yolk or soy beans. The body uses phosphatidylcholine to make a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in the brain, thus scientists have explored its use for conditions such as memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, manic-depressive disorders, and tardive dyskinesia.

In one study the effect of 2 types of PC on cognitive functions for humans was explored, using the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) test in participants with cognitive disorders. The researchers found that intake of 2 kinds of PCs after breakfast each day raised the score from 15 to over 20, which indicates normal cognitive functions, over a period of 5 months, with higher scores seen with higher amounts of each supplement (Nagata et al 2011).  Another study looked at the effect of PC on explicit memory among 80 college students, using a double-blind mixed design. The placebo and PC were compared at two dose levels and 2 times of testing post ingestion; significant improvement in explicit memory was observed at 90 min post- ingestion and slight improvement was observed at 60 min post-ingestion (Ladd et al 1993). A 2004 prospective, randomized, double-blind study, compared the effect of lecithin to a placebo in 96 patients with mild cognitive disorders over 84 days. In both groups, a clear improvement in all the cognitive parameters was seen among the lecithin group compared to placebo (Volz et al 2004).

Use of Phosphatidylcholine supplements has also been studied in populations with more serious cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease. This form of dementia is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and over 5 million Americans today live with the disease. 1 in 3 seniors dies with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another dementia, forms of cognitive impairment which have a major effect on daily quality of life.

One double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial which looked at Alzheimer’s, gave patients affected by mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, 400-mg capsules of PC or placebo capsules, 3 times daily, for 180 days. Their condition was assessed using various scoring tools, used to measure outcomes after 90 and 180 days of treatment. Of the 261 patients enrolled in the study, the average decrease in Alzheimer’s Cognitive score in patients treated with PC was 2.42 points after 90 days of treatment and increased to 3.20 points at the end of the study on day 180; in patients receiving the placebo, in compasrison, the average increase in was 2.90 points after 180 days of treatment. In the PC group, all other parameters that were assessed were consistently improved after 90 and 180 days, whereas in the placebo group they remained unchanged or worsened (de Jesus 2003).


Clin Neuropharmacol. 1993 Dec;16(6):540-9. Effect of phosphatidylcholine on explicit memory.

Ladd SL, Sommer SA, LaBerge S, Toscano W.

Nagata T, Yaguchi T, Nishizaki T. DL- and PO-phosphatidylcholines as a promising learning and memory enhancer. Lipids Health Dis. 2011 Jan 28;10:25. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-10-25.

Volz HP, Hehnke U, Hauke W. [Improvement in quality of life in the elderly. Results of a placebo-controlled study on the efficacy and tolerability of lecithin fluid in patients with impaired cognitive functions]. MMW Fortschr Med. 2004 Dec 9;146(Suppl 3-4):99-106. [Article in German]

Nagata T, Yaguchi T, Nishizaki T. DL- and PO-phosphatidylcholines as a promising learning and memory enhancer. Lipids Health Dis. 2011 Jan 28;10:25. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-10-25.

De Jesus Moreno Moreno M. Cognitive improvement in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia after treatment with the acetylcholine precursor choline alfoscerate: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Ther. 2003 Jan;25(1):178-93.

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