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Lecithin and Nutrition

Benefits of Lecithin

It breaks up fats and cholesterol. It is excellent for a healthy heart. It is a rich source of gamma linoleic acid (GLA) and has the highest phosphatide concentratil available (98% or more). It helps the body utilize vitamins A, D, E, and K and is excellent for memory, concentration, and recall. It cleanses the liver and kidneys and helps the body absorbs nutrients. And to top it all off, it adds sprinkle to your salads, favorite drinks, nut butter, spreads or sauces.

Yet, for all the wonderful benefits of lecithin, would you believe that it is actually nothing more than a byproduct of soybean processing? Byproduct, meaning it is little more than waste. So how come this purportedly “waste” product contains so many health benefits? What is the theory behind the benefits of lecithin?

Lecithin – Its History and Origin

The word lecithin comes from the word lekithos, which is Greek for “egg yolk.” It was given that name because lecithin was actually first discovered in 1805 when the French scientist Maurice Gobley isolated the compound from an egg yolk.

Lecithin is a great emulsifier. Since its discovery, it has been widely marketed in the commercial sector as an emulsifier used mainly in the food industry as well as an ingredient in products such as paints and pharmaceuticals.

For years, people got their source of lecithin from egg yolk. Then in the mid 1930s, lecithin was recovered from the waste products of soybean processing, a discovery that changed the whole face of commercial lecithin. Today, most of the commercial lecithin we find sold in the market come from soybeans.

Lecithin – Its Benefits

Lecithin is regarded in the scientific community as a synonym for phosphatidyl choline (PC), which is said to be the main compound responsible for all the benefits of lecithin, specifically its medicinal effects.

When we consume phosphatidyl choline, the compound is broken down into the nutrient choline, which many consider as an essential nutrient. “Essential” because our bodies cannot manufacture their own supply of choline and instead we have to depend on the foods that we eat to maintain the right levels.

Lecithin is an essential component in the cell membrane. In fact, it defines its structure. As such, one of the benefits of lecithin is to maintain the integrity of cell membranes, helping facilitate the movement of fluids inside and outside the cell.

As a component of bile, lecithin keeps fats emulsified. You have noticed how fats work under certain conditions. When exposed to low temperature, they tend to turn white and go into a semi-solid state. And when exposed to high temperature, they turn completely liquid. Imagine what would happen to the body if our fats, or lipids, are subject to the slightest change in temperature. That is why one of the benefits of lecithin is its emulsifying action, keeping fats properly balanced and maintained.

Lecithin is also a component of the myelin sheath, the thin covering that layers our brain cells and spinal chord to protect it from damage. Not only that but some studies have shown that one of the benefits of lecithin is to facilitate cell signaling, that is the process by which cells communicate with each other to improve bodily functions.

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