Lecithin Supplements and Plasma Choline in Marathon Runners

The Effect of Lecithin Supplementation on Plasma Choline Concentrations During a Marathon

Alan L. Buchman, MD, MSPH, Mohamed Awal, MD, Donald Jenden, BSC, Margareth Roch, BS, and Seung-Ho Kang, PhD

Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois (A.L.B.), Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (M.A.), Department of Medicine (S.-H. K), University of Texas Medical School, Houston, Texas, Department of Pharmacology, UCLA Medical School, Los Angeles, California (D.J., M.R.) [a-buchman@northwestern.edu]

Background: Previous studies have shown that plasma and urinary free choline concentrations decrease significantly during a marathon, and that these decreases may be associated with decreased performance.

Objective: In a pilot study, we sought to determine whether lecithin supplementation prior to a marathon would maintain plasma free and urinary choline concentrations and improve performance versus placebo.

Methods: 12 accomplished marathon runners, males (7) and females (5), 21 to 50 years of age were randomized to receive lecithin (4 capsules BID; PhosChol 900) or placebo beginning one day prior to the 2000 Houston-Methodist Health Care Marathon. The lecithin supplement provided approximately 1.1 g of choline on a daily basis (2.2 g total). Runners estimated finish time based on recent performance and training. Fasting, pre- and post-marathon plasma and a five-hour urine collection were analyzed for free choline and plasma for phospholipid-bound choline. Pre-race predicted, as well as the actual finish time, were recorded.

Results: All subjects completed the marathon. Plasma free choline decreased significantly in the placebo group and increased significantly in the lecithin group (9.6+3.6 to 7.0+3.6 nmol/mL vs. 8.0+1.2 to 11.7+3.6 nmol/mL, p=0.001 for the delta between groups). No significant changes in plasma phospholipid-bound choline concentration were observed. There was a non-significant decrease in urine free choline in both groups. Actual finish time was 256.3+46.3 minutes for the lecithin group vs. 240.8+62.0 for the placebo group and the actual:predicted time was 1.03+0.06 (lecithin) and 1.07+0.08 (placebo), p=0.36.

Conclusion: Short-term lecithin supplementation prior to a marathon maintains normal plasma free choline concentration during the race, but failed to improve performance.

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