Lecithin information, FAQ and product listing page. This page contains information and frequently asked questions about lecithin as well as a complete list of products containing lecithin.

What is lecithin and what does it do?

The literal term lecithin has two meanings. In biochemistry, lecithin is a synonym for phosphatidyl choline and is the main lipid component in cell membranes, including cell walls and plants. The kind of commercial lecithin, the one that comes via a supplement, is a natural mixture of neutral and polar lipids. This includes triglycerides, glycolipids, sterols – and in smaller quantities fatty acids, carbs, sphingolipids, and carbohydrates. Anywhere from 20 to 90% of lecithin in the supplement form contains the polar lipid known as phosphatidyl choline.

Lecithin that contains phosphatidyl choline is produced primarily from vegetable sources, but it can also be found in animal and microbial sources. However, the supplement and commercial form of lecithin sold on the market today are derived from soybean, grape seeds, and sunflowers.

Originally, lecithin came from egg yolk. Maurice Gobley, a science from France discovered lecithin in egg yolk in 1805. For years this was the source of lecithin in the commercial food industry. However, in the 1930s the transition was made from egg yolk to soybean, as soybean had a more abundant source.

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What are the benefits of taking lecithin?

Very little doubt exists on the benefits that lecithin can provide. The most popular and widely used reason to use lecithin is for the role of breaking down fats in the body. Lecithin can be found in the body at the cellular level and even though it’s not an essential nutrient, it’s seen as holding an important role in regulating and controlling the flow of nutrients, as well as waste materials, in and out of a cell.

For many decades lecithin has also been an attribute for treating high cholesterol, as it has shown to prevent the compilation of bad cholesterol and fats on artery walls. It’s also used to help prevent liver cirrhosis, as it helps disperse fat and help and the breakdown of it so it doesn’t gather in the liver. And since lecithin quickens the degeneration of fats and their related metabolism, the soy form of lecithin has been used to help individuals lose weight.

Lecithin is also believed to assist in the prevention of gallstones and help promote healthy gallbladder functioning. The lecithin supplement is also prescribed often to improve memory of those that have brain-related medical problems or conditions like dementia, amnesia, or Alzheimer’s. Additionally, lecithin has been used in endurance sports to boost the physical performance of athletes.

Other claims made about lecithin are that it is a part of or the remedy for psychosis, heart ailments, and even some types of cancer. However, there are no studies that currently prove this.

In women, studies have been conducted those show the relation between the function of lecithin and the reproductive health of women. During pregnancy, lecithin and choline (main component) is able to help maintain a healthy pregnancy. It also helps create an ideal infant development stage. There is also a claim (more research is needed) that lecithin helps to support the healthy development of breast cells and glandular functioning. This is why you can find lecithin in many breast enhancement supplements.

For men, the male semen contains a considerable amount of lecithin. If you supplement your diet with soy lecithin you may be able to increase the amount, as well as the volume of prostate secretions. This means that the volume of semen when you ejaculate will be increased.

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Who can benefit from taking lecithin?

Anyone who wants to help his or her body process fats more efficiently consider supplementing with lecithin. Also, anyone who wants their mind to function better can as well. So many parts of your body require phosopholipids to operate – including your liver, brain, muscles, and reproductive tract – with the most common phosopholipid being lecithin.

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How much lecithin should I take?

While this is not for lecithin, the United States Department of Agriculture has dietary reference intakes (known as DRIs) for choline, the main component of lecithin. A DRI chart basically shows that estimated amount of daily requirements for a particular nutrient.

Choline RDAs:

  Males Females
Infants up to 6 months old: 125mg 125mg
Infants from 7 to 12 months old: 150mg 150mg
Children from one to 3 years old: 200mg 200mg
Children from 4 to 8 years old: 250mg 250mg
Children from 9 to 13 years old: 375mg 375mg
Individuals from 14 to 18 years old: 550mg 400mg
Individuals from 19 to 70 years old: 550mg 425mg
Pregnant women: N/A 450mg
Breast-feeding women: N/A 550mg

The TUL, or tolerable upper limit is the highest daily amount of a substance that a specific group can take without receiving any side effects. As far as choline is concerned, the TUL for adults is 3,500 milligrams per day. For pre-teens, those 9 to 13 years old, the TUL is 3,000 milligrams.

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Does lecithin have any side effects?

Side effects are rare but can occur. One of the rare side effects involves low blood pressure, which comes from a high, extended dosage of choline. Other types of side effects that can be associated with lecithin and its main component choline include gastrointestinal upset. And in high amounts, choline has been known to give its user’s sweat, urine, and breathe a fishy odor.

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Sources used:Iwata, T., Kimura, Y., Tsutsumi, K., Furukawa, Y. & Kimura, S. (1993).The effect of various phospholipids on plasma lipoproteins and liver lipids in hypercholesterolemic rats. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology 39, 63-71. Jimenez, M. A., Scarino, M. L., Vignolini, F. & Mengheri, E. (1990). Evidence that polyunsaturated lecithin induces a reduction in plasma cholesterol level and favorable changes in lipoprotein composition in hypercholesterolemic rats. Journal of Nutrition 120, 659-667.