Liver Health

Updated 11 October 2016

How phospholipids boost liver health

Increasing your intake of dietary phospholipids could improve the health of your liver, protecting it from diseases caused by poor lifestyle choices.


In today’s world where many of us make poor lifestyle choices, our livers are under more strain than ever. Unbalanced diets, a lack of exercise, risky sexual behaviour, obesity, drug abuse and binge drinking mean that our livers have to work harder and are at a higher risk of damage and disease.

One of the most common conditions affecting the liver is fatty liver disease (steatosis). It is almost entirely influenced by lifestyle choices but is also reversible. Fatty liver disease can be caused by alcohol abuse (alcoholic steatosis) or by other lifestyle factors such as poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyle and smoking, the British Liver Trust explains. This is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Fatty liver can cause liver inflammation and progress to scarring. Advanced fatty liver disease can cause cirrhosis and liver failure, the Livestrong Foundation explains. It is associated with a number of conditions including metabolic syndrome, hypertension, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

What is liver disease?

Can phospholipids help?

For over 100 years experts have recognised the benefit of phospholipids for reducing symptoms of a number of conditions such as heart disease, cancer and inflammation, according to an article published in Lipids in Health and Disease.

Phospholipids are capable of repairing damage to the liver caused by alcohol, poor diet and other factors. They are an important component of cell membranes and contribute the overall functioning of the cells. They help to form a semi-permeable bilayer that encloses the cytoplasm (cellular fluid) and allows for transportation of substances in and out of the cells.

A paper published in Lipidology states that there is increasing evidence that phosphatidylcholine, a type of phospholipid found in egg, fish and soybeans, can reduce fat in the liver. This indicates the potential benefits of increasing phospholipids as a means of treating fatty liver disease and maintaining liver function.

Symptoms of liver disease

How to increase your intake of phospholipids

To protect your liver and improve its functioning, you can supplement your phospholipid intake. This can be done by taking a supplement or by increasing your dietary intake of foods containing phospholipids. Try increasing your intake of:

-          Egg yolk

-          Soybeans

-          Fatty fish, especially sardines

-          Brussel sprouts

-          Broccoli

-          Lean meat such as chicken

-          Organ meats such as liver and kidney

-          Milk

If the idea of changing your diet doesn’t appeal to you, there are many affordable liver supplements on the market. It is important to specifically look for ones that contain phospholipids as not all of them do. In particular, keep an eye out for brands that state that their phospholipids are derived from soybeans, fish or eggs as these will contain phosphatidylcholine.

Read more:
Fish oil fights inflammation
High GI foods can damage the liver
Coffee may shun liver cancer

Image: Human liver anatomy from Shutterstock


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