Soy lecithin and sunflower lecithin and lecithin are in heavy use in the cooking industry as an emulsifier to help substances mix together evenly. They’re also in use as the oily substance in non-stick cooking sprays. What many people don’t realize is that this phospholipid is also a powerful supplement for health and nutrition. Adding soy lecithin or another lecithin supplement into your regular daily routine could help reduce your cholesterol levels, stress levels, and has other interesting benefits as well. This guide looks at real scientific studies and careful research that shows the benefits and potential side-effects of this powerful natural substance.
Table of Contents
What is Lecithin?
Lecithin isn’t a single compound, but rather a group of compounds all known as phospholipids. These compounds work in the brain, the nerves, blood, and many other tissues throughout your body to help it function properly. Lecithin is also a precursor to choline in the body, which means it’s necessary to make choline in the body. It can be obtained through a number of foods, but soy lecithin is one of the most common forms of the compound. Just knowing the lecithin definition isn’t enough to know how it works though. We’ll dig into the benefits, doses and potential side-effects of the supplement so that you know how to use lecithin.
Natural Sources of Lecithin
Lecithin is most well-known for being in soy, and that’s where most industries get the compound to synthesize. Lecithin is made from soy oil frequently, but it is also available from many other sources as well. This is especially true if you’re looking for dietary food sources to start consuming.
You will find lecithin in the following foods:
- Soy oil
- Sunflower oil
- Egg yolks
- Wheat germ
After you know about foods high in lecithins, such as egg yolks or liver, make an effort to eat those foods on a more regular basis. Doing so will help increase your natural lecithin levels as well as the choline in your body. Lecithin foods like peanuts and soybeans are easy to eat and nutritious as well, making them a good addition to any standard diet.
Sunflower Lecithin vs. Soy Lecithin
Unlike other compounds, lecithin is very different depending on its source. That’s because lecithin is actually a combination of many different compounds together. So when comparing soy vs sunflower lecithin, it’s important to realize that although they are similar substances, they are different from one another. This distinction is important when looking at the scientific research behind sunflower lecithin benefits and the benefits of soy lecithin. Since they’re really different, it’s impossible to apply the results from a test studying the effects of soy lecithin to a product like a sunflower lecithin. Since most studies are done on the more readily available soy lecithin that’s what you should be taking in order to obtain the proven, or at least likely, benefits that it has to offer you.
The Forms of Lecithin
Lecithin comes in a wide variety of forms even after you consider its origins. Lecithin is different based on the food or plant that it comes from, but lecithin from the same plant or food source can be found in forms such as liquid lecithin, lecithin powder, lecithin granules or liquid lecithin, or lecithin capsules. Capsule form and granule form are the two most common and the most likely options for supplementation. The other options can be used in the same way though. Lecithin powder or liquid lecithin are both common tools when used to emulsify liquids together. Each form of lecithin can be used in the same way, but using them in their intended way will make getting the most from lecithin a bit easier to do.
Benefits of Lecithin
Before tracking down the latest sunflower lecithin supplement, or looking for liquid lecithin to make your own supplements at home, it’s important to look at the benefits of lecithin. First, let’s explore the lecithin uses worth pursuing. Lecithin is a promising substance for a range of ailments, but it’s important not to take it for benefits that do not yet have sufficient studies. Below you will learn what lecithin is good for and other things you need to know about this supplement.
Lowering Cholesterol Levels
LDL cholesterol buildup in the body leads to all sorts of problems such as heart disease. We all know that high LDL cholesterol levels are a bad thing. So, it’s good to know that one of the benefits of lecithin is when taking it on a regular basis, it lowers harmful cholesterol levels. This is a huge benefit that helps improves the health of the body in numerous ways.
First, high Cholesterol comes with all of the following health risks:
- Risk of stroke – lowered blood supply to the brain
- Risk of peripheral artery disease and pain in the extremities
- Increased risk for heart disease
- Increased risk of early-onset Alzheimer’s
A recent test shows that taking a lecithin supplement of 500mg on a daily basis for just a single month reduces total cholesterol levels by around 40% and HDL cholesterol by as much as 42% in most users. Not only that, but taking the same dose for two months leads to total cholesterol level reductions of around 42% and up to a 56% reduction in HDL cholesterol. Those are amazing figures and show that one cholesterol reduction is one of the key lecithin benefits to look forward to.
It’s important to note that lecithin supplements are also linked to cardiovascular issues due to how the substance synthesizes by microbes in the body. Therefore, lecithin isn’t a clear-cut tool for improving cardiovascular health. For this reason, talk to your doctor about lecithin supplementation for high cholesterol and decide if it’s worth trying.
Minimizing Stress Levels
Most people today suffer from higher levels of stress than ever before, especially here in America. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for people to turn to all sorts of medications and practices to try and reduce these out-of-control stress levels. A story released in the International Journal on the Biology of Stress talks about a study that shows a connection between soy lecithin phosphatidic acid combined with phosphatidylserine complex and how much participants’ stress experiences. Four groups of patients were subjected to the same stress tests after a three-week period of different dose treatment levels, and the only group that showed a real reduction in stress levels was the group taking a 400mg dose of the soy lecithin and phosphatidylserine complex supplement. That means that taking regular soya lecithin or other lecithin powder or lecithin supplement types could help reduce stress levels over time. There haven’t been long-term studies for stress reduction, but lecithin seems like a promising aid to people suffering from excess stress in their lives.
Reduce Arthritis & Other Inflammatory Conditions
P Hartmann tested phospholipids such as sunflower lecithin or soy lecithin along at the Institute of Surgical Research at the University of Szeged Hungary. This study shows that the substances help reduce the inflammation response in the body which is beneficial in reducing symptoms from conditions like arthritis.
Help Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk
Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Emory University working together have found a direct link between high LDL cholesterol levels and the risk for developing early-onset Alzheimer’s. There is evidence that suggests taking lecithin granules or using another lecithin supplement over time could help reduce that risk. This study along with other tests using soya lethicin specifically shows how good the substance is at reducing LDL cholesterol levels over time. Within just a month of taking a lecithin dosage of 500mg per day, it’s possible to reduce cholesterol levels by as much as 40%. That’s a significant improvement and would be likely to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life according to recent research. Of course, making other dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol levels would also be beneficial, but it seems likely that the benefits of lecithin would aid that goal toward long-term mental health.
Weight Loss is Inconclusive
While there is quite a bit of evidence that choline helps with weight loss in humans, the same can’t be said for lecithin, at least not yet. There aren’t any conclusive studies showing a lecithin supplement or lecithin powder working to aid weight loss goals. However, there are enough other proven benefits of the supplement that make it worth taking.
Sperm Production in Men
Soy Lecithin is now the substance of choice to help with cryopreserving human sperm. So, it seems kind of fitting that the substance may also help with increasing sperm production in humans. We want to start off with a little disclaimer saying that the lecithin benefits for men as far as semen production goes haven’t been proven through human tests. There are plenty of animal studies, like this study on rabbits that show the benefits of lecithin sexually, at least from a reproductive standpoint. Using lecithin for sperm and lecithin for semen production worked well during the rabbit study with sperm and semen levels both increased over a three-week testing period. It stands to reason that there could be an increase of seminal fluid with lecithin for humans as well, but there’s no way to know for sure until human trials are performed. Until then, taking some lecithin granules, powder or capsule supplements could help with semen production and it’s worth a try for men looking for increased reproduction rates.
Using Lecithin Supplements
There are many different types of lecithin supplements available today in different doses. According to the most recent studies the most effective lecithin dosage to use likely lies between 400mg and 500mg for cholesterol reduction and for stress reduction. Lecithin dosage levels vary depending on the type of lecithin that you purchase.
Using Gel Capsules
If you get the lecithin capsules you can easily get a desired dose of the compound on a daily basis. Simply take one or more capsules to achieve your desired concentration. Capsules are available offering between 400mg and up to 1,200 mg of soy lecithin or sunflower lecithin depending on what you are after.
Using Lecithin Granules
The other common way to take lecithin is in granule form. Lecithin granules are usually combined in oils or liquids to create a concentrated solution that you can add to your daily diet. Pay attention to the concentration of lecithin when using these granules to achieve your desired dosage to enjoy the benefits of lecithin you are most interested in.
Lecithin is available in powder and liquid forms as well, but these are more common in the cooking industry and aren’t as simple to rely on for supplementation as the other forms of the substance.
Lecithin Interactions – a Low-Risk Supplement
As long as the source of lecithin is high quality and the supplement is made properly lecithin is known for being safe to take and for not having any known medical interactions. That means most people should be safe to start taking lecithin. No real studies have been done looking at lecithin toxicity, but users are recommended to stay under 5,000 mg per day when taking supplements.
Adverse reactions to lecithin supplements include:
- Stomach pain
- A full feeling in the stomach
- Enhanced saliva production
Potential Cardiovascular Risks
Lecithin is documented for lowering cholesterol levels which helps reduce cardiovascular risk. But there is also a new study showing that lecithin increases cardiovascular risk as well. This risk comes from two areas, phosphatidylcholine – synthesized from lecithin in your body – and trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) that are synthesized from that phosphatidylcholine by microbes in your body. An increase in TMAO levels has been linked to a higher risk for major cardiovascular issues such as stroke and a heart attack. So there are mixed results when it comes to lecithin and heart health.
Lecithin and Allergies
Those with egg allergies or soy allergies must take the time to determine the source of the lecithin supplement they are using. Soy lecithin should not be taken by those with soy allergies. Egg lecithin should be avoided if you suffer from an egg allergy to prevent adverse reactions.
Lecithin is a useful substance and a supplement that often benefits the right people. Whether you just want a more well-rounded diet or you’re interested in lowering your stress levels, reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, minimizing the discomfort of arthritis or just looking for a way to raise the choline levels in your body, lecithin could help with all of those goals in one way or another.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.