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You may have heard of lecithin or perhaps seen it on an ingredient label. Did you ever stop to wonder, however, what lecithin is, or whether or not it has any value to your health? Turns out this little mixture of fats has a very important function in human cells. This is everything you need to know about what it does for your health, how to take it, and precautions to be aware of.
The Health Benefits of Lecithin: A Comprehensive Guide
Lecithin is a natural compound found in various plant and animal sources. It is a type of fat that belongs to a group known as phospholipids. Lecithin plays a crucial role in our body by providing nutrients and supporting various bodily functions. We can produce phospholipids ourselves, but we also obtain them from our diets. Let’s explore the numerous health benefits of lecithin and the potential risks associated with its consumption and guide you on choosing the right type of lecithin. (1)
1. Brain Health and Cognitive Function
Lecithin contains a nutrient called phosphatidylcholine, a phospholipid that is also a source of choline, which is important for brain and nerve health. Phosphatidylcholine helps maintain the structure and function of brain cells, improves memory, and supports cognitive function. Regular intake of lecithin may help reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease. (2)
2. Heart Health
Lecithin has been found to have positive effects on heart health. It helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels. By promoting healthy cholesterol balance, lecithin can reduce the risk of heart disease, hypertension, and atherosclerosis. (3) However, the data on this is mixed and more studies are needed.
3. Liver Support
The liver plays a crucial role in detoxification and metabolism. Lecithin helps to prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver, thus promoting its health and proper functioning. Moreover, lecithin assists in breaking down fats and exporting them from the liver. Regular intake of lecithin can support liver health and prevent liver diseases. (4)
Related: Fatty Liver: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Home Remedies
4. Digestive Health
Lecithin aids in the emulsification of fats and promotes their digestion. It acts as an emulsifier in the digestive system by breaking down dietary fats into smaller particles, making them easier to digest and absorb. This can help to alleviate digestive disorders, improve nutrient absorption, and prevent the formation of gallstones. (5)
5. Weight Management
Lecithin may play a role in weight management and the prevention of obesity. By helping with fat metabolism, it can enhance the breakdown and utilization of fatty acids in the body. This can potentially help in weight loss, although it is important to note that lecithin alone is not a substitute for a balanced diet and regular exercise. Also, more studies are needed as so far only small studies have been done. These small studies are not conclusive enough to say that lecithin leads to fat loss. (6)
6. Skin Health
Lecithin is often used in skincare products due to its hydrating and emollient properties. It helps to maintain the integrity of the skin barrier, keeping it moisturized and preventing excessive dryness. Additionally, it aids in the absorption of other beneficial skincare ingredients, promoting healthier, more youthful-looking skin. (7)
7. Nervous System Support
Lecithin contains choline, a nutrient that is essential for the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in numerous functions in the nervous system. Adequate choline intake through lecithin may help support nervous system health, improve mood, and enhance focus and concentration. (8)
8. Cell Membrane Integrity
Lecithin contributes to the structure and integrity of cell membranes throughout the body. It assists in the movement of nutrients in and out of cells, maintaining their proper functioning. This is particularly important for the health of nerve cells and can help to prevent neurological disorders. (9)
Supplemental Lecithin: Potential Risks and Considerations
Lecithin in both foods and supplements is generally considered safe to consume. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Allergies and Sensitivities
Individuals with soy or egg allergies should be cautious when consuming lecithin derived from these sources. Symptoms may include skin reactions, digestive issues, or respiratory problems. Choosing lecithin derived from non-allergenic sources like sunflower is recommended.
Lecithin may interact with certain medications, such as blood-thinning drugs. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplementation if you are taking prescription medications.
Choosing the Right Lecithin
If you decide to supplement with lecithin you may be overwhelmed with the sheer number to choose from. It can be difficult to determine which is right for you. When it comes to choosing lecithin, you have options:
Sunflower lecithin is an excellent alternative for those with soy or egg allergies. It offers similar benefits to soy derived versions and is commonly available in supplement form. Sunflower lecithin is also non-GMO, making it a suitable choice for those who prefer to avoid genetically modified organisms.
Soy lecithin is widely available and typically more affordable than other sources. However, if you have soy allergies or sensitivities, avoid it and opt for alternatives like sunflower sources instead.
The product that is right for you will depend on your personal needs, allergies, and, of course, budget. This sunflower lecithin supplement from NOW supplements is high-quality, soy-free, and non-GMO. Unbleached lecithin supplement from Natural Factors is also available, and is a more cost-effective, non-GMO soy-based option. Both soy and sunflower lecithin can be found in powdered and granular forms as well.
Lecithin offers a wide range of potential health benefits, including support for brain function, heart health, liver wellness, and digestive health. It can also aid in weight management, promote skin health, and support the nervous system. However, it is important to be aware of potential risks associated with allergies and drug interactions when consuming lecithin. Choosing the right source, such as sunflower lecithin, can suit those with allergies or GMO avoidance preferences. As always, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplementation or making significant changes to your diet.
Keep Reading: 8 Benefits of Including Celery in Your Diet
- “What Does Lecithi n Do For You? Very Well Health. Regina C. Windsor, MPH, RDN. September 14, 2023.
- “Positive Effects of Soy Lecithi n-Derived Phosphatidylserine plus Phosphatidic Acid on Memory, Cognition, Daily Functioning, and Mood in Elderly Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.” Springer Link.
- “Dietary polyenylphosphatidylcholine decreases cholesterolemia in hypercholesterolemic rabbits: role of the hepato-biliary axis.” NCBI. E Polichetti, et al. October 2000.
- “Effectiveness of phosphatidylcholine as adjunctive therapy in improving liver function tests in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and metabolic comorbidities: real-life observational study from Russia.” BMJ Journals. Igor V Maev, et al.
- Berg-Schmidt Functional Lipids
- “Effect of Choline Supplementation on Rapid Weight Loss and Biochemical Variables Among Female Taekwondo and Judo Athletes.” NCBI. Gehan Elsawy, et al. March 27, 2014.
- “Lecithi n: How is it Used?” The Derm Review. January 4, 2023.
- “Natural lecithi n promotes neural network complexity and activity.” NCBI. Shahrzad Latifi, et al. may 2016.
- “What Is Lecithi n Used For?” Medicine Net. Rohini Radhakrishnan, ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.