Pvitamin bhosphatidylcholine, a form of the B vitamin choline, helped those with inflammatory bowel disease stop taking steroid drugs, and reduced symptoms, in a new study.

Doctors explained that those with this chronic disease—ulcerative colitis—often do not respond to drugs, which may help treat acute symptoms short-term, but have serious long-term side effects. In creating the study, scientists noted that low levels of phosphatidylcholine in colon mucus may contribute to or cause the disease.

Researchers from the University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany— which specializes in inflammatory bowel disease—recruited 60 participants with ulcerative colitis who were taking—but not responding to—steroid drugs, and who had severe symptoms of the disease. Participants took 500 mg capsules of phosphatidylcholine, four times per day for a daily total of 2 grams, or a placebo, for 12 weeks. Because ulcerative colitis usually starts in the rectum, and is active in the colon, doctors used a capsule that released near this end of the large intestine.

At the end of the study, 50% of those who had taken phosphatidylcholine—15 of 30 participants—had stopped taking steroid drugs completely and saw symptoms decrease by at least 40%. Nine more of these participants—another 30%—had stopped taking steroid drugs completely and had stable symptoms. Some participants reported mild bloating.

Altogether, a total of 80% of those who had taken phosphatidylcholine were able to stop taking steroids completely while maintaining or easing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. Only 10% of the placebo group had similar results. Study authors concluded that phosphatidylcholine helped those with ulcerative colitis become independent of steroid drugs while stabilizing or improving the disease.

Reference: Annals of Internal Medicine: 2007, Vol. 147, No. 9, 603-10.

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