Phospholipids: What’s the big deal?

A few months ago, we posted an article on digestion, absorption, and bioavailability and which is the most important when considering a supplement. There, we mentioned a nutrient that most aren’t very familiar with: phospholipids. 

Phospholipids are crucial to efficient nutritional absorption in the body. Therefore, finding a supplement that contains phospholipids is a big deal if you want to make sure you get the most from that supplement. 

Here is a breakdown of all you need to know about phospholipids…


What Are Phospholipids Exactly?

In the most basic terms, phospholipids make up our cells’ membranes. You can think of cell membranes as containers that house the little organelles of our cells, like the mitochondria and nucleus. What makes cell membranes unique is their phospholipid bilayer.

We won’t go into the scientific specifics here, but what you need to know is that the phospholipids provide structure and protection to our cells, while also allowing the passage of various nutrients and other chemical messengers in and out.  

 According to

“Phospholipids regulate cellular processes related to growth, synaptic transmission, and immune surveillance.”


With so much responsibility, a good phospholipid presence in the body is crucial for all mammal life. 


Phospholipids, Absorption, and Bioavailability

We tend to focus on nutrient digestion and absorption, but bioavailability is perhaps the most important of all.

Here’s a simple recap on the above terms:

  • digestion: the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food into nutrientsBioavailability
  • absorption: the taking in of nutrients to the small intestine/bloodstream
  • bioavailability: the extent to which the nutrients can be used by the body and not excreted as waste

For nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids to be quickly absorbed and then subsequently be used by our cells, bioavailability must be high, and an abundance of phospholipids should be present. 

According to published research, dietary phosphatidylcholine (which is one of the three types of phospholipids that is found in the majority of foods and supplements) is absorbed into the intestinal tract at a rate of greater than 90 percent. Following that rapid absorption, the phospholipid appears in red blood cells and lipoproteins almost immediately.

This means that taking either phospholipid supplements or a supplement that contains phospholipids could encourage rapid bioavailability. 


Which Oil Contains Phospholipids: Krill Oil or Fish Oil?

If you are into heart and/or joint health, there is a high likelihood that you have invested a bit of time into finding the supplements that have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids. 

Krill-Oil-vs-Fish-OilAccording to a study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, those who want to thwart cardiovascular risks should be getting at least 1000 mg of omega-3s daily.

However, most people do not naturally take in enough omega-3 rich foods to get what they need. In your search for the right product, you’re no doubt going to come across both fish oil and krill oil as good omega-3 fatty acid suppliers. 

Here’s the clincher: krill oil is a source of phospholipids; fish oil is not.

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are bound to triglycerides or ethyl esters, and the valuable omega-3s in krill oil are instead attached to phospholipids.  Therefore, taking krill oil results in better absorption and bioavailability of omega-3s than basic fish oil thanks to the presence of phospholipids. 


Phospholipids: In Conclusion 

Phospholipids are a vital part of the human body because they are the “gatekeepers” to every cell in our bodies. They provide support and protection, but also help our cells get the nutrients they need to perform their functions. 

Omega-3s and the other nutrients found in both fish oil and krill oil are beneficial for bone and joint health. The difference is that the phospholipids found in krill oil enhance the absorption and bioavailability of those nutrients. 

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