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Lecithin
Overview
Lecithin is a lipid that consists mostly of choline, and also includes inositol, phosphorus, and linoleic acid. Lecithin helps to prevent arteriosclerosis, protects against cardiovascular disease, improves brain function, helps keep the liver and kidneys healthy, aids in thiamin and vitamin A absorption, and can even help to repair liver damage caused by alcoholism. The choline and inositol in lecithin protect against hardening of the arteries and heart disease by promoting normal processing of fat and cholesterol. Lecithin itself helps to bind fats and cholesterol to water so that they can pass through the body rather than cause a potentially harmful buildup in the heart or liver. Cell membranes, the protective sheaths surrounding the brain, and nerve cells also contain this essential fatty substance.

Choline, which is considered to be part of the B-Complex vitamins, has been found to be a primary component of Lecithin. In the brain, Choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine and is also involved in the synthesis of Dopamine. Clinical research shows that Choline taken as a dietary supplement provides positive support for:



arw Healthy nervous system function


arw Healthy cognitive functions such as alertness, concentration and memory


arw Normal respiratory function


arw The utilization of other fat soluble nutrients such as Vitamins E and K
 

In the United States, Lecithin is classified as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the Food and Drug Administration. Substances that receive a GRAS classification have maintained a long, safe history of common use in foods or have been determined to be safe based on proven scientific research.

What is Lecithin?
It has been recognized for some years that lecithin is an internally neutralized compound. The neutralization takes place between a strongly acidic group and a strongly basic group. Solutions of lecithin therefore may be expected to show no buffering power within the physiological range. The molecule phosphatidylcholine lecithin - C40H80NO8P is a yellow phospholipid essential for the metabolism of fats; found in egg yolk and in many plant and animal cells; used commercially as an emulsifier

Where is it Found?
Lecithin is a fatty substance that is typically derived from soy beans. Other sources include foods such as peanuts, eggs, and beef products, although, significant dietary sources are few. The richest natural sources of lecithin are from foods which are also high in fat. Majority of commercial lecithins sold in the market today come from soybean (mostly), sunflower, and grape seed. When talking about plant lecithins, the most common source is soybean. When Maurice Gobley, the French scientist who discovered lecithin, found lecithin in egg yolk in 1950, egg yolk was the sole source of lecithin used by the commercial food industry. By the 1930s, when soybean lecithin was discovered, egg yolk no longer held its former place of being the major source of lecithin for commercial use. Today, it is not even a major source of lecithin in nutritional supplements. The reason may be that lecithins that come from plants are GRAS or generally regarded as safe.

Product related PDF file
Lecithin & Lipotropics
 
Benefits / Uses
The following are some of the many health claims that lecithin is said to have:


arw Cardiovascular health


arw Liver and cell function


arw Fat transport and fat metabolism


arw Reproduction and child development


arw Treatment for gallstones


arw Improvement in memory, learning and reaction time


arw Healthy hair and skin
arw Cell communication
arw Physical performance and muscle endurance
arw Relief of arthritis
 

One of the most essential lecithin benefits is for the heart. It gained its popularity due to the beneficial effects it has on the heart. The ability of lecithin to break cholesterol into smaller particles is the key to its function that prevents several chronic heart diseases. Thus the cholesterol can be handled by the system with ease. Normally what happens is that the fat and the 'bad' cholesterol that gets accumulated in the blood causes ill effects in the body. Adequate intake of lecithin helps in removing these deposited fat and cholesterol from the blood and utilizing them for the benefit of the body. Most of the heart diseases are a result of increased amount of blood cholesterol and decreased amount of lecithin. So, such diseases can be countered by taking small amounts of lecithin on a daily basis.

Lecithin is also linked with preventing the onset of gallstones and improves the gallbladder function and health.
Treating problems or illnesses related to the functions of the brain such as Alzheimer's disease, amnesia and dementia are associated with soy lecithin benefits (soy lecithin is extracted as a by-product while processing soybean oil and is generally used as a natural emulsifier or stabilizer in various food applications).
Other benefits of soy lecithin includes treatment of bipolar disorder, eczema (generic term for inflammatory conditions of the skin; particularly with vesiculation in the acute stages), fatty liver (hepatic steatosis) and liver disease.

Apart from all these, extrapyramidal symptoms, anxiety and dry skin have also been known to be treatable by soy lecithin supplements. However, these soya lecithin benefits to the body is a part of a controversial debate in medical science. It is not certain that this dietary supplement may work for all these medical conditions.

It is important to take note of the fact that expecting or nursing mothers should seek professional advice, before including the supplement in their diet. However, some research reveals that intake of lecithin ensures healthy pregnancy and development in the infant. According to some other studies, this product forms an important ingredient in breast enhancing supplements, as it is known to add to the proper functioning of breast cells.
Health benefits of lecithin also involve the improvement of the quality and quantity of male semen. Consuming soy lecithin improves prostate secretions making it high in volume and amount.

Another benefit of lecithin has been found to be related with healthy hair. Healthy hair growth is governed by the amount of protein in the hair. Lecithin benefits for hair mainly support and enhance the required amount of protein for hair growth. Thus lecithin not only maximizes hair growth, but also improves its texture making it strong and shiny.

Dosage
1gm - 35gm daily

Possible Side-Effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions:
There are certain possible but minor side-effects of lecithin. These include nausea, vomiting, weight gain, loss of appetite and rashes. Other probable side-effects of lecithin which may arise are gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, anorexia, sweating, headache, unpleasant body odor and bad breath. However, all these side-effects do not occur when the administration of lecithin is kept to its required amount of dosages.

Research Studies / References
Cholesterol
As early as 1966, Japanese researchers have already evaluated the cholesterol-lowering effect of iodine-lecithin. Then in 1977, Simons LA et al showed use of oral lecithin to lower cholesterol in an open clinical trial. In 1/3 of healthy subjects and in 3/7 patients suffered from hypercholesterolaemia, lecithin therapy led to a significant fall in plasma cholesterol concentration (10-18% fall).

How does lecithin lower the cholesterol?
In 1996, A French research group demonstrated that lecithin diet could lower the total and HDL-cholesterol level. They believed that the cholesterol-lowering effect of lecithin was related to hepatic microsomal pools of phosphatidylcholine and cholesterol. Four years later, this research group demonstrated that the cholesterol-lowering mechanisms induced by dietary soybean lecithin in hypercholesterolemic rabbits at the hepato-biliary level in a study using rabbits. They also showed that the soybean phosphatidylcholine (lecithin) could actually lower cholesterol level by retarding the intestinal absorption of cholesterol in study of endothelial cells.

Synergistic health benefits of lecithin on cholesterol level
Wilson TA et al at University of Massachusetts Lowell demonstrated that soy lecithin
enhanced the cholesterol-lowering effect of the American Heart Association Step I diet without reducing plasma HDL-C levels. Gurevich VS et al, Cardiology Institute, S. Petersburg, Russia, found an improved effect on lipid-reducing action when lovastatin was combined with Lipostabil (lecithin) in the therapy.



arw Theodore Gobley "Sur la lécithine et la cérébrine"; Journal de Pharmacie et de Chimie 1874,t20, 98-103, 161-166".


arw Supplier's website with lecithin applications


arw Iwata T, Kimura Y, Tsutsumi K, Furukawa Y, Kimura S (February 1993). "The effect of various phospholipids on plasma lipoproteins and liver lipids in hypercholesterolemic rats". J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol. 39 (1): 63–71. PMID 8509902.


arw Jimenez MA, Scarino ML, Vignolini F, Mengheri E (July 1990). "Evidence that polyunsaturated lecithin induces a reduction in plasma cholesterol level and favorable changes in lipoprotein composition in hypercholesterolemic rats". J. Nutr. 120 (7): 659–67. PMID 2366101. http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=2366101.


arw Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN (Winter 2003). "Soy Lecithin: From Sludge to Profit". Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts 4 (4). http://www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert/694-soy-lecithin-from-sludge-to-profit.html.


arw J Nutr. 1965 Jan;85:107-12., [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14256995 FATTY LIVERS PRODUCED IN ALBINO RATS BY EXCESS NIACIN IN HIGH FAT DIETS. II. EFFECT OF CHOLINE SUPPLEMENTS.


arw British Journal of Nutrition (1996), 75:471-481 Cambridge University Press, Cholesterol-lowering effect of soyabean lecithin in normolipidaemic rats by stimulation of biliary lipid secretion
arw Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 2006, Soy Lecithin but Not Egg Lecithin Decreased the Plasma Cholesterol Concentration in Golden Syrian Hamsters
arw Life Sciences, Volume 67, Issue 21, 13 October 2000, Pages 2563-2576, Dietary polyenylphosphatidylcholine decreases cholesterolemia in hypercholesterolemic rabbits: Role of the hepato-biliary axis.
arw J Pharm Pharmacol. 2005 Jul;57(7):889-96, Phytostanol tablets reduce human LDL-cholesterol.
arw Kansas State University, 29-Oct-2001, Why Eggs Don't Contribute Much Cholesterol To Diet.
arw OK Kosher Certification, Keeping Kosher for Pesach. Retrieved on Sept 10, 2008.


arw Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America FAQ, IFANCA: Consumer FAQ. Retrieved on July 7, 2010.