It is important to realise that cholesterol is normally dissolved and kept in solution as a flowing liquid when there are adequate amounts of essential fatty acids. The melting point of solid cholesterol that one would find in the artery wall is 300 degrees F. When lecithin is present, such as in the biliary system, the melting point of cholesterol falls to 180 degrees F, but it is still insoluble without the addition of bile salts. The chemical structure of lecithin and the electrical charges it carries give it powerful detergent action. It is able to emulsify oils and hold them in solution. Lecithin is an important constituent of bile. Lecithin is derived from soybeans or egg yolk, is composed of the B vitamin choline, linoleic acid and inositol. Lecithin enables fats, like cholesterol to be dispersed in water and removed from the body. When the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic are present in sufficient quantity, the melting point of cholesterol falls to 32 degrees, which is below normal body temperature. These fatty acids are found in some vegetable oils particularly flaxseed oil, also called linseed oil.
Lecithin, cholesterol and bile salts it comprises the three major constituents of bile. Its function is to keep the bile in a liquid form so that gall stones will not form. Cholesterol and bile salts are in a delicate balance in bile and an absolute or relative increase of one over the other tends to result in stone formation. The detergent action of lecithin can prevent this stone formation.
Cholesterol Gallstones form when the cholesterol concentration in the bile exceeds the ability of the bile to hold it in soluble form. This occurs either by an increase in cholesterol secretion by the liver or a decrease in bile salts or phospholipids through a decrease in synthesis or interruption of the enterohepatic circulation (circulation of bile). The result is crystals that grow into gallstones.
Experiments in a laboratory have demonstrated that bile from people without Gallstones takes about 15 days to form the nucleus of a gallstone. Bile of people with cholesterol gallstones, which, usually already contains cholesterol crystals has a nucleation time of about 3 days. Nucleation of cholesterol occurs far more rapidly from gallbladder bile of people with cholesterol Gallstones than from hepatic bile in the same person, even when hepatic bile samples are supersaturated with cholesterol. The addition of even small amounts of gallbladder bile to the hepatic bile samples causes rapid nucleation.
During the normal inter-digestive period the gallbladder partially contracts, thus potentially evacuating any small crystals that might have formed. This cleansing function of the gallbladder should in theory prevent bile stasis and prevent crystals from growing into stones. However, interruption in the normal biliary cycles can lead to the formation of cholesterol gallstones. This condition is sometimes called biliary stasis or gallbladder stasis. Stasis means the state in which the normal flow of a body stops.