Lecithin naturally occurs in the tissues of the body and is also created synthetically. It consists of fatty acids and has commercial and medicinal uses — acting as an emulsifier — to keep fats and oils from mixing with other substances. Lecithin supplements are widely available and may help treat various medical conditions with minimal reported side effects.
Lecithin supplements come from sunflower seeds, soybeans, or eggs, though soy is the most popular. Soybean lecithin mostly comes in granulated capsules, while sunflower lecithin is available in powder and liquid formulations. For people avoiding genetically modified organisms, sunflower lecithin is the better choice because of the soybean modification process.
Lecithin derived from soy may improve heart health, particularly in people at risk of high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. At this time, there is little research around its benefits on heart health, but some smaller studies show promise. One study shows a lecithin-rich diet can help lower cholesterol and effectively treat hypercholesterolemia.
Research studies show a diet rich in lecithin may raise good cholesterol while lowering the unhealthy kind. Similar studies on lecithin supplements show promising results, with some participants seeing 42 percent lower cholesterol after two months of taking 500 milligrams of soy lecithin a day. Sunflower lecithin does not show the same results.
Another benefit to soy lecithin supplementation may be increased immune function — particularly for people with diabetes. Research shows lecithin supplements increase white blood cells when taken daily, eliminating cancer cells, microbes, and other foreign matter in the body. In similar studies on rats, research shows lecithin also increases lymphocytes, which are essential to the immune system.
Choline, an ingredient in lecithin, may improve cognitive function. Researchers studied the effects of lecithin on baby rats and noted significant memory enhancement, even in aging ones. While more research is needed on the effects for humans, lecithin may be beneficial for people with Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders. In a separate study, research shows lecithin can also improve mood in patients with Alzheimer's and similar disorders.
Studies show lecithin may help relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis and improve digestion. The emulsifying qualities of lecithin improve the mucus inside the digestive tract and protect the stomach's sensitive lining. Lecithin may also treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or similar digestive tract conditions. Always discuss lecithin as a treatment option with a doctor, first.
Lecithin is a common ingredient in skin care products because it hydrates and makes skin smooth. While there is little research around its effectiveness, some people use lecithin to manage eczema and cure acne. One study shows a lecithin-rich diet may improve the appearance of acne by reducing the number of comedones, the small, skin-colored bumps some people develop.
Some breastfeeding experts suggest lecithin to help prevent plugged ducts. For the most benefits, the recommended dose is 1,200 milligrams, four times daily. While there is little research at this time, the theory is that lecithin affects breast milk's viscosity, making it less prone to clog the ducts. Lecithin works best in combination with other treatments, like massage and warm compresses.
A doctor may suggest choosing foods rich in lecithin before considering supplementation, as this type of consumption has added health benefits and fewer side effects. Red meat, seafood, cooked green veggies, and eggs are all rich in lecithin. Naturally occurring lecithin does not pose any health risks or have any adverse effects, unless, of course, the individual is allergic to or intolerant of other components of the food.
The United States Food and Drug Administration considers lecithin safe for consumption. The best source is through food rather than supplements, which can have side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and bloating. Researching the brand name before taking any supplement is advisable, and anyone with a history of heart disease or any other serious condition should check with their doctor before using lecithin.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.