Phospholipids are a type of fat present in plant and animal cells. They can also be found in certain omega-3 dietary supplements.

This article discusses the functions of phospholipids, including their roles in health, and how they’re involved in your body’s use of omega-3s.

Phospholipids play many essential roles in health and are involved in a variety of biological processes. For example, phospholipids are a vital component of cell membranes, which separate the interior of cells from the outside environment and give cells structure.

In our diet, phospholipids are also needed to support the absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids. Phospholipids form a “shell” around these fats, allowing them to be distributed and absorbed by the body.

Phospholipids are found in foods like meat, eggs, seed oils, and seafood. They’re also found in some plant foods but in much smaller amounts.

Phospholipids can also be found in supplements. Marine phospholipids are derived from fish, algae, and shellfish like krill. Fish species typically contain between 1 and 1.5 percent phospholipids, while krill typically contains 40 percent.

It’s been suggested that the omega-3 fats docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from krill oil may be more bioavailable than omega-3s from fish oil.

This is because the majority of DHA and EPA from krill oil is bound to phospholipids, which are efficiently absorbed by the body.

In contrast, the DHA and EPA found in fish oil is bound to types of fat called triglycerides.

Some evidence suggests that taking phospholipid-bound omega-3s, such as those found in krill oil supplements, may be more beneficial than taking omega-3s from fish oil supplements.

However, not all studies have found a significant difference in bioavailability of krill oil compared to fish oil. For this reason, larger, high-quality studies are needed.

Supplementation with phospholipid-bound omega-3s may benefit health in several ways. For example, supplementation with krill oil has been associated with promoting heart and brain health.

One 12-week study examined 300 people with borderline-high or high triglyceride levels. Researchers found that an average daily dose of 1.875 grams of krill oil led to closer to normal triglyceride levels compared to baseline. This suggests that taking krill oil may support heart health.

Additionally, some studies have suggested that phospholipid-rich krill oil may be able to support cognitive function and brain health. Yet, not all studies have found a significant benefit.

Taking krill oil may help regulate the body’s inflammatory response as well, according to findings from human and animal research.

Although phospholipid-rich omega-3 supplements have been associated with some health benefits, more research is needed.

Most people’s diets are lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA. This is because many people don’t consume enough DHA and EPA-rich seafood. Plus, Western diets are rich in processed foods and vegetable oils, which are high in omega-6 fats.

Although both omega-6 and omega-3 fats are necessary for health, Western diets tend to be much higher in omega-6 fats and much lower in omega-3 fats, which has been linked to a number of health issues.

An omega-3 supplement may be a good choice for people who don’t regularly consume seafood. However, some research suggests there may be a risk of atrial fibrillation associated with high doses of omega-3 supplementation. Keep in mind that the amount of omega-3s you need depends on your age, sex, and overall health.

Before taking any supplement, talk to your doctor to ensure it is safe and won’t interact with any other medications.

Phospholipids are essential to health. They play a number of roles in the body, acting as a major component of cellular membranes and facilitating the absorption and transportation of important omega-3 fats throughout the body.

Some evidence suggests that taking phospholipid-rich omega-3 supplements like krill oil may benefit health in several ways. However, more research is needed to fully understand these benefits.