Lecithin is a particular fat that is needed by every living cell in the human body. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, lecithin was a popular food supplement because of its health benefits. While lecithin is not as popular as it was, it still has significant health benefits and is worth consideration.
Lecithin is known for helping to prevent arteriosclerosis, protecting against cardiovascular disease, improving brain function, facilitating repair of the liver and promoting energy. Lecithin is a fat emulsifier. It enables fats such as cholesterol to be dispersed in water and removed from the body. It also protects vital organs and arteries from fatty buildup.
Most commercial lecithin is derived from soy. The best food source of lecithin is egg yolks. Part of the controversy surrounding eggs and cholesterol revolves around the lecithin content of the egg yolk. Since egg yolks are an excellent source of lecithin they are considered beneficial in reducing cholesterol only if the cooking method preserves the lecithin content. Cooking at high temperatures denatures or destroys the lecithin. This means that any form of cooking that results in runny yolks preserves the lecithin and makes the egg beneficial in reducing cholesterol. Egg yolks cooked solid do not have the same benefit.
Documented health benefits of lecithin include the following. Lecithin helps to prevent and treat atherosclerosis by lowering total cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol. Lecithin reduces the risk of gallstones and in some cases has reduced the size of existing gallstones. Lecithin helps to repair liver damage caused by alcohol consumption. Lecithin also helps psoriasis that is related to faulty fat metabolism.
Lecithin is critical in the body’s ability to utilize the fat soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E. Adding lecithin to your diet could help with utilization of any and all of these essential vitamins.
Lecithin is an important component of brain and nerve tissue. It is particularly concentrated in the myelin sheaths that serve as the protective coating of the nerves. Lecithin helps to prevent age associated memory impairment and may prevent further deterioration of mental function in Alzheimer’s patients.
Parts of the lecithin family are becoming popular health supplements. These are phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine. While phosphatidylcholine has primarily the same benefits as lecithin, phosphatidylserine has tremendous brain and nerve benefits. These include alleviating dementia and early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Phosphatidylserine also improves memory, attention span and learning ability. Another benefit of phosphatidylserine is that it reduces excessive release of the stress hormone cortisol.
Lecithin is available in granules, liquid or softgels. The best source for phosphatidylcholine supplementation is lecithin. Phosphatidylserine is available in a concentrated form and is sold in 100mg increments.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.