An investigation was carried out on the effect of lecithin (phosphatidylcholine, 90%) on the plasma choline concentrations during continuous strain in 10 top level triathletes (4 women and 6 men), trial I, and 13 excellent adolescent runners (3 girls and 10 boys), trial II. Venous blood, collected before and immediately after the race, was separated and plasma was assayed by an improved high performance liquid chromatography method for choline. Each study comprised three experiments. In trial I the triathletes performed two periods of bicycle exercise each lasting 2 h at an average speed of 35 km · h−1, and in the second study (trial II) the subjects were subjected to severe physical stress on two occasions during cross-country races of durations between 30–60 min according to their ages. The participants received either a placebo or 0.2 g lecithin · kg body mass−1, 1 h before each exercise. As a control the same dose of lecithin was administered without any exercise (both trials I and II). Bicycle exercise without lecithin supply decreased plasma choline concentrations in all the triathletes, on average by 16.9% (P≤0.01). When lecithin was given before exercise, average plasma choline concentrations remained at the same level as the initial values. The supply of lecithin without exercise led to a significant increase of the plasma choline concentrations, on average by 26.9% (P≤0.01). In trial II, when running without a supply of lecithin, the mean plasma choline concentrations in the adolescent runners remained stable which may have been due to the duration of the physical stress. When lecithin was given before exercise, plasma choline concentrations increased, on average by 18.9% (P≤0.01). The administration of lecithin without exercise led in these participants to an increase in plasma choline concentrations, on average by 54% (P≤0.001).
It was found from the present study that a combination of both lecithin intake and hard physical stress prevented in most subjects a decrease in plasma choline and this could affect performance.