What is Lecithin?
Lecithin is a fat molecule that is composed of inositol and choline that are crucial for living cells, in scientific terms, it is a type of phosphatidylcholine. Simplistically, lecithin is a fat emulsifier (and surfactant), which means that it is a substance that aids in breaking down and dispersing fat within fluids.
It is well documented and explained that lecithin is converted into an important neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine, this molecule is crucial for our nervous system to function appropriately. Read more about the details below.
What is Lecithin used for?
Lecithin is commonly known to aid with reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, a common source of lecithin is from soy based products. It has been shown that a continuous four months of soy lecithin being administered was shown to reduce total blood lipids, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in patients with high lipid levels. The suggested mechanism of lecithin is that it increases the metabolism of cholesterol within the digestive system. Ultimately, this translates into a lower risk for coronary heart disease with a lower level of lipids.
Another main use of lecithin is to help improve neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders such as dementia. Phosphatidylcholine, serves as a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the increase in the accumulation of acetylcholine found within the brain then leads to an improvement of a myriad of brain functions, such as improved memory function.
There are also some claims that lecithin may help relieve symptoms associated with arthritis, and can also be used to treat gallbladder and even liver diseases.
Other than consuming it, there is a possibility of lecithin being used as a food additive to prevent cooking ingredients from separating out from each other (as a emulsifying and stabilizing surfactant). In addition, there are also some folks that will apply lecithin to their skin as a form of moisturizer (found in creams, lipsticks, and conditioners). Last but not least, you may find trace concentrations of lecithin in eye medications, the purpose is to ensure that the active ingredient within the medication stays in close contact with the cornea within the eye.
There are mixed evidence published on the effect of lecithin on weight loss. There is a study that indicated soy lecithin consumed as a beverage decreased the absorption of cholesterol in subjects consuming a fat-free meal, and may lead to weight loss. However, there has been no conclusive trials to date that truly shows a causal effect of consuming lecithin and weight loss. Regardless, this should not deter you from consuming food or supplements rich in lecithin as there are clearly benefits to the cardiovascular system and brain function!
Where can I naturally find lecithin?
The majority of individuals will consume an average of 40mg to 70 mg of lecithin each day, which may be sufficient to fulfil the body’s daily needs. However, if you are have a high level of activity or is someone that is going through a weight loss diet or exercise program, you may require a higher amount of lecithin supplement.
Lecithin can be easily found in food such as egg yolks, soy beans, or legumes. If you were to purchase supplements, do check to see how much of the contents are actually lecithin. Most lecithin supplement products are derived from soybean products.
Is there any side effects to taking too much lecithin?
While adverse effects are not typically linked to the consumption of lecithin; and the exact amount of consuming ‘too much’ may vary between individuals, studied doses of lecithin have ranged between one to 35 grams in the past. There are reports that show, daily doses of lecithin could cause some side effects such as stomach discomfort, dizziness, and nausea.
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