Phospholipids are a member of a vast group of organic compounds known as lipids. The primary function of phospholipids is to make up the cell membrane of a living organism. Lipids are basically a vast as well as assorted collection of compounds enclosing oxygen (O), carbon (C) and hydrogen (H). As a result they do not break up in water. In other words, lipids are insoluble in water. Lipids can be categorized into one of two groups - oils or fats.

Phospholipids can be described as a group of lipids which form the key constituent of cell membranes in all living organisms. Phospholipids possess the ability to form lipid bi-layers owing these organic compounds' amphiphilic nature. Generally speaking, a phospholipid is made of a hydrophilic "head" comprising a phosphate group plus two hydrophilic "tails". A glycerol molecule joins these components of a phospholipid molecule. It is possible to modify the phosphate group in the hydrophilic "head" of a phospholipid molecule by common organic molecules like choline.

On the other hand, the chemical composition of different types of lipids is different. However, despite being different in their chemical structures, all lipids enclose similar glycerol molecules. Therefore, the characteristics of lipids are actually determined by the character of the fatty acids. The entire types of fatty acids comprise a carboxyl group (-COOH), which is bind to a hydrocarbon chain. This hydrocarbon chain is composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms. The length of these hydrocarbons may be different and they can repel water (hydrophobic).

It is worth mentioning here that phospholipids are different from triglycerides. Although the difference between the two is small, it is a vital one. In fact, the structural composition of phospholipids and triglycerides is very different. In the case of triglycerides, three fatty acids are attached to one glycerol molecule. On the other hand, phospholipids have one less fatty acid, as the third one is substituted by a phosphate group, which is composed of phosphorus, hydrogen and water. Contrary to the remaining components of a phospholipid molecule, the phosphate group is hydrophilic in nature (attracted to water). The function of phospholipids inside the cell membrane is influenced by the fact that one section of the molecule repels water (hydrophobic), while another part is attracted to it.

The phospholipids arrange themselves automatically into a double layer, also known as a bi-layer, when they are put in water. The fatty acids, which repel water in a phospholipid molecule get to the center of this bi-layer or double layer arrangement. On the other hand, the hydrophilic "heads" of the molecule, which encloses a phosphate group, are outward facing and they line up along on the either side of the external margin of the bi-layer. As a result of this type of arrangement, it allows many substances to move across the bi-layer, while many are not allowed to pass through, thereby serving as a natural boundary.

Therefore, it is understandable that the role of the cell membrane is to serve as a natural border between the constituents of a cell and the substances in its environment. Almost the entire cell membrane is made up of proteins and phospholipid bi-layer. Molecules that dissolve in water or are water soluble cannot go through the barrier caused by the phospholipid bi-layer because its interior is water repelling or hydrophobic. However, some proteins present inside the bi-layer help the molecules to move into as well as out of the cells. In fact, they facilitate the transportation of water soluble molecules. Thus, the phospholipids and the proteins regulate the entry and exit of the different substances into and from the cells.

Health benefits

Phospholipids are not only beneficial for our health, but when we take phospholipids it has a positive influence on all the areas of our body. Ingestion of phospholipids helps to provide our body with the essential nutrients required by it to undertake the various vital bodily processes. This actually ensures what we basically are. In the absence of the essential phospholipids, our life would be completely different from what it is now.

Essential phospholipids have several positive influences on our entire body. When you take sufficient amounts of phospholipids, it ensures that we are doing well to support the structure as well as the functioning of the cell membranes. In fact, this is considered to be among the most important health benefits offered by the essential phospholipids. In the absence of phospholipids or any scarcity of this vital organic compound in the body, our body would not only suffer from a deficit of the essential nutrients required for the normal functioning of the system, but also not possess the very basic levels. In such a situation, we would just not be able to function properly as the basic functions of our body wouldn't even be complete.

In addition, the phospholipids also work to provide the cells with choline for acetylcholine (ACH). In fact, choline supplied to our body is vital for the neurotransmitter ACH. It is essential that your blood contains choline, as it is necessary for the proper functioning of the brain. Taking essential phospholipids helps to provide the brain with slow-releasing choline, which helps to maintain a healthy and elevated level of these molecules.

Aside from this, essential phospholipids are also useful for fat and bile emulsification. Phospholipids also play a vital role in our gastrointestinal (GI) system, where they aid in softening or melting dietary fats as well as bile made in the liver. This enables the digestive tract to function at its optimal levels always.

The essential phospholipids also help in boosting the energy production in our body. As phospholipids are an excellent source of healthy fatty acids, the two get well. Our body burns the fatty acids to generate energy. Therefore, when you intake enough fatty acids, it implies that your body has sufficient fuel for generating energy. Aside from this, fatty acids, which are not burned up immediately, can be stored in the body to ensure a vigorous supply of fatty acids that can be burned when we need to boost our energy levels.

It has been established that essential phospholipids are vital for influencing cholesterol to become more soluble. As the phospholipids help to enhance the solubility of cholesterol, taking them will help to bring down the levels of cholesterol in the blood stream. At the same time, phospholipids aid in supporting platelet aggregation. In addition, essential phospholipids are also helpful in preventing development of atherosclerosis.

Aside from the health benefits of taking essential phospholipids mentioned above, these organic compounds also aid in blood clotting. In fact, they work to modulate red blood cell (erythrocyte) and platelet accumulation. This is considered to be an indispensable bodily function and it would not function in the manner they do in a healthy individual in the absence of essential phospholipids.

Therefore, it is clear that our body as well as our life would not be what they are now in case the essential phospholipids did not exist. We are fortunate enough that we can ingest various dietary supplements that would provide us with the entire essential phospholipids that are required by us to lead a life that we desire. These supplements are available at almost all drug stores in your neighbourhood. When your body has a healthy and reasonable amount of essential phospholipids in store all the time, it is likely that your body will keep working well. It will work as you would want it to, irrespective of all the burdens endured by it.