The term lecithin refers to organic fatty acid compounds or lipids composed of choline and the B-vitamin inositol.
It is found naturally in many plants and in animal products such as soybeans and egg yolks.
It has a variety of uses, including commercial applications and not least as a health supplement. It is a commonly added ingredient in a many food products, mostly due to its emulsifying, lubricating and stabilizing properties.
Since it is present in many plants as well as animal sources such as fish and eggs, an adequate amount of lecithin can be consumed by eating a healthy and balanced diet. Foods high in lecithin include soybeans, egg yolks, wheat germ, yeast and peanuts. Supplements are used in some treatments for high cholesterol.
Of course, many people have trouble maintaining a well balanced diet, so in order to get the benefits of lecithin, supplements can be taken in the form of tablets and gel capsules as well as lecithin powder, which can be added as an ingredient in healthy fruit smoothies.
The Powder form is usually sourced from soy, which is good news for those who follow lacto-vegetarian or vegan diets.
Studies have shown that soy lecithin can lower cholesterol and triglycerides while boosting good cholesterol or HDL. A proven benefit of this is for those who take niacin to treat high cholesterol.
Supplementing your diet with lecithin provides added choline (a B-vitamin), which can be depleted by taking extra niacin. However, claims that lecithin aids in weight loss are unsupported by scientific research.
Other substantiated benefits of lecithin include treatment for those who suffer from gallstones.
Research has also been conducted into how lecithin might help in ailments of the liver and in the treatment of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, with some positive results.