Dietary phospholipids, hepatic lipid metabolism and cardiovascular disease

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Purpose of review

An increasing number of studies in experimental animals suggest that dietary phospholipids might be of benefit in the treatment of fatty liver disease. This raises the possibility that synthetic or naturally occurring phospholipid isolates could be used as hepatoprotective nutraceuticals or functional foods. The aim of the present article is to review published data describing the beneficial effects of dietary phospholipids on hepatic lipid metabolism and their potential to affect atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

Recent findings

Consistent results have been obtained supporting the concept that phospholipid from various sources (i.e., soybean, safflower, egg and fish roe) can reduce liver lipid levels. The primary site of action for this effect appears to be in the intestinal lumen, where dietary phospholipids are able to interfere with neutral sterol absorption. Results have also been obtained suggesting that dietary phospholipids can stimulate bile acid and cholesterol secretion. Additional work suggests that dietary phospholipids can have a beneficial effect on plasma lipid and lipoprotein levels.


The concept of using naturally occurring compounds such as phospholipid to treat or prevent hepatic steatosis is very attractive. Controlled human trials are, however, required to verify the efficacy of this approach. It is also important that additional research be conducted to determine the extent to which certain phospholipids have the ability to increase plasma HDL levels and potentially affect the onset or development of cardiovascular disease.

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