Lecithin is also known as alpha-phosphatidylcholines, lecithinum ex soya, sojalecithin, or soy lecithin.
Lecithin is a group of closely related chemicals. It isn’t a single chemical. Lecithins belong to a larger group of compounds called phospholipids. These are important parts of the brain, blood, nervous tissue, and other tissues. Phospholipids are also a component of cell membranes.
The body uses lecithin to transport fats and in the metabolic process. Lecithins are made of choline and a phosphate group called the L-alpha-glycerophosphorylcholine skeleton. A long fatty-acid chain is attached to this skeleton. The length and position of the chain determines the type of lecithin.
Many people know lecithin as the oily film on their frying pan when they use a nonstick cooking spray.
Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated through studies.
Lecithin is used to treat dementia. It’s also used to treat Alzheimer's disease and gallbladder disease. It may also help treat fatty liver (hepatic steatosis) in people on long-term parenteral nutrition.
Lecithin comes in capsules, liquid, and granules. There is no recommended intake amount.
Foods containing lecithin include egg yolks, soybeans, wheat germ, peanuts, and liver.
Signs of lecithin deficiency aren’t clear. Symptoms are more likely to be caused by choline deficiency, rather than lecithin.
Choline deficiency in animals may lead to liver problems and kidney damage. Choline-associated liver dysfunction has led to liver cancer in laboratory animals. However, this risk hasn’t been found in humans.
Side effects, toxicity, and interactions
In normal doses, lecithin may cause side effects. These can include stomach aches, diarrhea, or loose stools. It isn’t known what symptoms would occur if you take too much lecithin.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any supplements.
There are no known food or drug interactions with lecithin.
March 21, 2017
Poulson, Brittany, RD, CDE,Wilkins, Joanna, R.D., C.D.