In this article, I’m going to talk about Lecithin. Yes, lecithin, that mysterious food additive that you see in all your chocolate, baked goods, almond milk, buttery spread and more. And you may be surprised to find out that there’s actually amazing health benefits from lecithin. Finally a food additive that’s not toxic to us!
So what on earth is lecithin?
Lecithin is a general term to describe the yellowish fatty substance that can be derived from sunflower, soy and eggs that is ampiphillic. Amphiphilic is just a fancy word that basically means the substance is both soluble in water AND fat. Because they have this unique property to dissolve in both water and oil, it is commonly used an emulsifying agent in foods because it helps remedy the separation of water and fat soluble ingredients in foods such as backed goods, sauces, nut milks, nut butters and more.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Chemicals added to my food? How can that be healthy?! I’m with you, generally I’m skeptical of all the horrible and toxic things that are added to processed food. Except funny thing is, lecithin is actually incredibly nutritious and has amazing benefits. Lecithin is also non-toxic and completely metabolized by the human body, unlike other emulsifying agents.
Lecithin and the important nutrient, Choline.
Lecithin contains a rich source of phosphatidylcholine and other phosphoplipids. Phospholipids are important molecules that make up our cell membranes. Phosphatidylcholine in particular is valuable because it provides choline, an important nutrient that makes the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Choline has also been found to improve fatty liver disease, reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol, reduce anxiety and decrease mania and psychosis in those with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Choline is also important for balancing homocysteine pathways and acts as a methyl donor in methylation pathways that are important for neurotransmitter production, detoxification, gene transcription and repairing cell membranes. Because the brain is mostly made of fatty substance, compounds like phosphatidylcholine are super essential to maintaining brain cell membrane health.
As I mentioned earlier, choline is an important building block to creating the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is important for activating the parasympathetic, or the “rest and digest” response. Choline is also critical for cognition, memory and mood. A number of studies have found that those with schizophrenia have abnormally low levels of acetylcholine activity. Administering choline supplements has been found to have antipsychotic effects in those with mania and psychosis.
Studies have also observed that anxiety is associated with low levels of choline in the body. Administration of a source of choline was positively associated with improvement in anxiety.
Studies show that consuming lecithin significantly increases levels of blood chole, brain choline and acetylcholine
But too much of a good thing is always possible. You want to make sure you do not have too much choline. Some research suggests that excessive intake of choline can result in depression in some susceptible individuals. Other research though suggests that low levels of choline are associated with depression. It’s likely that like anything, balance and proper dosage is important.
You may also wonder, what if I am allergic to soy/egg, or worried about GMO residues? Luckily, the end product of Lecithin, whether it’s from soy, eggyolk, or sunflower, is so refined that there are virtually no trace amounts of any allergenic protein left in the product once it is extracted. Because of this, it should contain no risk of prompting an allergic response, containing toxic residues or DNA.
So how much lecithin should you take then? Well, there’s no simple answer because it will largely depend on your biotype, how much meat and eggs you consume, and your activity levels. The general recommendation is to take between ½ to 2 grams per day. As always, start low and listen to you body. You can experiment with increasing the dosage as you evaluate how your body is responding to it.
While you can buy lecithin in capsules, I actually really like the taste and enjoy taking in in granules. It kinda tastes like oddly satisfying tiny granules of nutritious wax.
So, in summary, lecithin and it’s source of phosphatidylcholine shows evidence to improve brain health, memory, anxiety, liver function, cholesterol, and detoxification pathways. So next time you see lecithin on the ingredient list of your chocolate bar, You can feel good knowing your getting a little extra phosphatidylcholine that day.
If you’re interested in trying lecithin out, there’s a link below to a source that I personally recommend. It’s an affiliate link ,so I get a little sumthin sumthin at no added cost to you if you decide to purchase.
If you’re seeking nutritional interventions to improve your brain and mood health, be sure to take a peep at our website entheozen.com where we make nutritional supplements designed to help you balance your brain chemistry and achieve emotional health.
Hirsch &Wurtman, 1978; Magil et al., 1981; Löffenholz et al., 1993; Wurtman et al, 2009
Wood JL, Allison RG. Effects of consumption of choline and lecithin on neurological and cardiovascular systems. Fed Proc. 1982;41(14):3015-3021.
Hirsch MJ, Wurtman RJ. Lecithin consumption increases acetylcholine concentrations in rat brain and adrenal gland. Science. 1978;202(4364):223-225. doi:10.1126/science.694529.
Wurtman RJ, Hirsch MJ, Growdon JH. Lecithin consumption raises serum-free-choline levels. Lancet. 1977;2(8028):68-69. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(77)90067-8
Rosenberg GS, Davis KL. The use of cholinergic precursors in neuropsychiatric diseases. Am J Clin Nutr. 1982;36(4):709-720. doi:10.1093/ajcn/36.4.709