If you've ever read the nutritional facts table on a multivitamin supplement, you've probably seen lecithin listed somewhere near the bottom. While you don't need as much of it on a daily basis as, for example, vitamin C, it's still an important nutrient to have included.
Let's learn more about it.
Lecithin is a naturally occurring compound (a fat) within all cells of living things. The main sources for dietary lecithin, or lecithin supplements, include foods like soybeans, egg yolks, oatmeal and cauliflower. Lecithin is a source of phosphatidyl serine, as well as choline and inositol, which are all phospholipids.
Uses for Lecithin
Lecithin has a number of applications in the health world. You'll find it on the labels for vitamins as well as foods and medicines. Here's why:
Cognitive Support -- Lecithin is often taken by those with memory disorders like dementia as well as other cognitive issues like depression or anxiety because of its role in strengthening and protecting of the cellular membrane and the presence of those phospholipids. For this same reason, it's also believed to support the heart and nerves. In a 2004 study published in the medical journal Stress, soy lecithin was used to determine phosphatidyl serine's impact on the brain. It was found to reduce the cortisol response that leads to extreme stress.
Energy Production -- Present in every single cell within the body, lecithin also promotes natural energy production, to keep all the cells functioning optimally so you can keep on going.
Cholesterol Fighter -- Some small, early studies have shown lecithin may help keep cholesterol in check in otherwise healthy people. It hasn't yet been shown to lower bad cholesterol that is already high.
Liver Disease -- Lecithin consumption may help prevent an accumulation of fat within the liver, which can be harmful.
Food Emulsifier -- Lecithin is also a common ingredient in processed foods. It's added to create a more consistent and pleasant texture by keeping ingredients together. This is why you may see it on the label from time to time.
Medicine Additive -- Another common use for lecithin is in eye drops. Lecithin is added to help adhere the medicine to the eye and keep it there so it can help treat symptoms.
All of these benefits require further study to determine the exact action(s) of lecithin within the body.
As previously mentioned, lecithin supplements can be made from certain plants, such as soybeans. These are available in a variety of strengths, most commonly is capsule or granule form. Granules can be added to prepared foods and beverages, such as shakes. If you're intolerant to soy, make sure to read the product information carefully.
Make sure to check with your doctor before adding a lecithin supplement to your daily routine, especially if you're being treated for any of the conditions listed above, or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Lecithin deficiency is very rare and so large amounts aren't typically recommended. Your doctor can help you determine if lecithin is right for you as well as the correct dosage and length of treatment.
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