Introduction to Lecithin
There are so many assumptions surrounding Lecithin causing a lot of confusion to everyone who is contemplating using lecithin supplements. One of the reasons for this confusion is the fact that it is fat and a lot of us have always known that fat is dangerous for the body. Nutritionists advise us to reduce fat intake as much as possible so, why should one use lecithin supplements? Secondly, the biggest source of lecithin that is used to make most of the supplements around comes from soy, a not very popular plant associated with multiple side effects.
All this paints a rather confusing picture about these supplements but we are here to tell you that this compound is not as bad as most people think. In fact, if you use the right soy lecithin supplements then the chances of getting any adverse reactions are almost nil yet you can enjoy a wide spectrum of health benefits from it.
What is Lecithin?
Lecithin is a group of naturally occurring fatty compounds present in plant and animal tissues. The first extract of the ingredient was extracted from egg yolk but since then, scientists have been able to extract purer forms of these fats from soybeans, rapeseed, milk, cottonseed, sunflower and other marine plants.
Typically, a sample of lecithin is made up of glycolipids, fatty acids, phosphoric acid, triglycerides, glycerol etc. However, the main reason why it is contained in most supplements is the blend of phospholipids that are contained in the ingredient. These are the primary compounds used to store energy and they are also part of the building blocks of cell membranes.
The most useful forms of phospholipids are perhaps phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine. Phosphatidylcholine is secreted in the liver where it is converted into choline that’s used for various essential chemical processes in the body. Meanwhile, Phosphatidylserine is mostly found in brains where it enhances brain performance. Its supplementation, therefore, helps in protecting you from mental health conditions. At certain levels, this compound also helps in improving cognitive functions.
Studies were done in Japan also show that supplementation of fresh phospholipids helps to replace damaged cell membranes thus restoring proper functioning. How is this important? With better cellular membranes chances of getting metabolic syndrome, diabetes, fatigue and degenerative diseases reduce drastically.
Benefits of Lecithin
Brings Cholesterol to a healthy level
Cholesterol is responsible for fatal cardiovascular diseases. In most cases, our bodies cannot deal with excess cholesterol leading to high blood pressure and other complications. Soy Lecithin promotes lipid metabolism while decreasing hyperlipidemia in the body. By enhancing the metabolism of cholesterol and fat this compound is one of the few natural and highly effective remedies that are actually backed by clinical trials. Lecithin supplementation will promote the production of HDL in the liver and reduce LDL cholesterol to safe levels.
In 2010, a journal known as Cholesterol sought to establish the impact of soy lecithin on LDL and cholesterol levels. This study involved hypercholesterolemia patients. 30 of these patients were given 500mg of soy lecithin daily and the results were recorded and compared against a placebo after 1 and 2 months. After the first month, a 41% reduction of total cholesterol was recorded while the second month recorded a 42% reduction. LDL levels also went down by 42% in the first month and 56% in the month after.
This study proved that dietary supplementation of soy lecithin can be used to treat hypercholesterolemia.
Boosts Cognitive Functions
Soy lecithin has been subjected to lots of studies in an attempt at experimenting its influence on cognitive functions. One of the most reliable studies was published in the journal Advances in Therapy where a mixture of phosphatidic acid (240mg) and phosphatidylserine (300mg) was used in a double-blind trial. In the first investigation, the supplement was given to non-depressive patients experiencing memory problems. These patients were given the supplements three times a day for the entire 3-month period of the research. The results were astonishing. All the patients recorded a significant improvement in memory thus suggesting that soy lecithin supplements can be used by the elderly to improve their memory.
In the other investigation, the supplement was given to patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This study wanted to see how soy lecithin can affect Alzheimer’s patient’s daily life routines. They, therefore, recorded the changes in terms of emotional state, mental health and overall performance. At the end of the study, it was reported that the patients had gained 90.6% stability in performing their day-to-day activities. In terms of overall wellbeing, 49% of the patients under the product had significant improvements compared to just 26.3% in the placebo.
Improves the body’s ability to deal with stress
The Danish Journal, Stress, once published a study by German researchers that was looking into the effects of soy lecithin on ACTH and Cortisol levels. The study also used Spielberger State Anxiety inventory Stress subscale to evaluate the psychological performance of people taking lecithin supplements. This study also wanted to know how the results can be influenced by the amount of lecithin being consumed and hence they used different dosages in different groups. One group was given 800mg, another 600mg and the last one 400mg of a blend containing phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid.
The lecithin complex performed brilliantly in all the groups especially the one placed under 400mg dosages. The supplement was able to suppress the two main stress hormones cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone.
There are reports that the product can boost the immune system but there is yet to be a reliable human clinical trial to prove this. A team of Brazilian scientists tried to use soy lecithin on rats and the results were very promising. In this study, they used both diabetic and non-diabetic rats and they reported a 92% increase in lymphocytes that help your body in fighting infections among the non-diabetic rats. A similar amount of lecithin was used in diabetic rats and it enhances the ability of white blood cells to fight foreign invaders by 29%.
These studies suggest that lecithin can be useful in improving the immune system but more studies are needed to understand the best form of lecithin for this purpose and the dosages needed.
Increases Choline levels
The phosphatidylcholine component of soy lecithin is a source of the crucial macronutrient known as choline. This compound is essential for muscle movement, brain development, metabolism nerve and liver functions making it one of the most useful macronutrients in the body.
There is no denying that these supplements are extremely useful to the body but unfortunately, they also have some side effects that you must be aware of. The most prominent issue is perhaps the presence of other compounds that are used in the extraction of lecithin from soybeans. In this process, most companies usually use hexane. They then subject the mixture to another procedure to remove the hexane compound. In some cases, it is reported that hexane is never removed completely and this exposes users to potential side effects such as headaches, nausea, and dizziness. It can also affect your central nervous system leading to even more serious complications.
The amount of the supplement you should consume depends on factors such as reasons for consumption, age among other factors. There is, therefore, no specific amount of this lecithin that is recommended. Instead, you are advised to consult a physician to whom you’ll explain your reasons for wanting the supplement and disclose your medical history. This should help the practitioner to prescribe an appropriate dosage that will be effective and safe.
Lecithin’s interaction with other drugs is mostly safe. A lot of users have been able to use it alongside other medications without reporting any complications. To be safer you are, however, advised to tell your doctor about any drugs you are on before he/she writes you a prescription.
To avoid the complications associated with lecithin supplements you have ensure that you are getting the purest form. You should try to purchase organic soy lecithin which as we understand, isn’t very easy. Most of the other types of soy lecithin are usually genetically modified which can expose you to other medical problems.
There are so many assumptions surrounding Lecithin causing a lot of confusion to everyone who is contemplating using the supplements. One of the reasons for this confusion is the fact that it is fat and a lot of us have always known that fat is dangerous for the body. Nutritionists advise us to reduce fat intake as much as possible so, why should one use these supplements? Secondly, the biggest source of lecithin that is used to make most of the supplements around comes from soy, a not very popular plant associated with multiple side effects.
All this paints a rather confusing picture about lecithin supplements but we are here to tell you that this compound is not as bad as most people think. In fact, if you use the right soy lecithin supplements then the chances of getting any adverse reactions are almost nil yet you can enjoy a wide spectrum of health benefits from it.
Sol Ruiz heads our Research Digest department. He graduated from the New York University where he obtained his Master’s Degree in Public Health.