Wellness Nutrition Vitamins and Supplements Health Benefits of Lecithin Lecithin is a mixture of fats found in food that can be taken in supplement form. Lecithin supplements may be able to help with several conditions. By Jillian Kubala, RD Jillian Kubala, RD Jillian Kubala, MS, is a registered dietitian based in Westhampton, NY. Jillian uses a unique and personalized approach to help her clients achieve optimal wellness through nutrition and lifestyle changes. In addition to her private practice, Jillian works as a freelance writer and editor and has written hundreds of articles on nutrition and wellness for top digital health publishers. health's editorial guidelines Published on February 10, 2023 Medically reviewed by Jonathan Purtell, MS Medically reviewed by Jonathan Purtell, MS Jonathan Purtell, MS, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital. His primary interests include surgical and neurosurgical intensive care, orthopedic, obese/post-bariatric, and gastrointestinal patients. learn more Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article Benefits Good Sources of Lecithin How to Use Is Lecithin Safe? Side Effects MoMo Productions / Getty Images Lecithin is the collective name for a group of lipids—fatty compounds—naturally found in foods like eggs, fish, milk, and soybeans. The food industry also uses lecithin as an emulsifier—an ingredient that helps keep substances from separating. In addition to consuming lecithin through their diets, some people take lecithin supplements. Research shows that supplemental lecithin may offer a few benefits, from lowering cholesterol to improving symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Read on to learn more about supplemental lecithin, including what it is, how it affects health, its potential side effects, and how to use lecithin supplements safely. Benefits of Lecithin Lecithin supplements can be derived from different sources, such as soybean or egg yolk. Depending on the source of the lecithin, the supplement is made of different amounts of several phospholipids. Phospholipids are types of fats found in all animal and human cells that are involved in critical functions such as cellular communication and the regulation of inflammation. Although lecithin and the phospholipids contained within lecithin can be found in foods like soybeans, eggs, and vegetable oils, supplementing with lecithin delivers a higher dose of these ingredients, which may benefit health in several ways. May Improve Cholesterol Levels Some research has shown that lecithin supplements could benefit cholesterol levels. A small, older study that included 30 people with high cholesterol found that supplementing with 500mg soy lecithin capsules daily for two months reduced total cholesterol by 42% and LDL cholesterol by over 56% compared to placebo treatment. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because having too much LDL in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease. Scientists think that lecithin lowers cholesterol by stimulating the secretion of bile acid, which is produced from the breakdown of cholesterol. However, other research has shown that lecithin doesn’t have any effect on LDL cholesterol or total cholesterol in people with high cholesterol. The supplement might improve cholesterol levels for people who have not been diagnosed with high cholesterol. More—and larger—studies are needed to say for sure how lecithin supplements impact blood lipid levels. Could Help Reduce Heart Disease Risk One study in 89 middle-aged Japanese women found that supplementation with 1,200mg of soy lecithin for eight weeks significantly reduced diastolic blood pressure levels (the bottom number) compared to a placebo. Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. High blood pressure increases your risk of several conditions, including heart disease. The study participants also experienced a reduction in their cardio-ankle vascular index, which is a marker used to assess the stiffness of a person's arteries. Stiffening of the arteries is considered a risk factor of heart disease. The researchers who conducted the study noted that, although lecithin seemed to have heart disease-reducing potential, they weren’t exactly sure how the lecithin supplement improved blood pressure and arterial stiffness. One theory on the relationship is that the phospholipids in soy lecithin supplements may help replace damaged cell membranes, which become damaged during the normal aging process and from acute and chronic illness. This may help improve cellular health and reduce the risk of diseases, like heart disease. Might be Helpful for Ulcerative Colitis The phospholipid phosphatidylcholine, which is concentrated in lecithin, makes up more than 70% of the phospholipids that compose the intestinal mucus barrier. This barrier protects the intestinal lining. In people with ulcerative colitis—a type of inflammatory bowel disease—the phosphatidylcholine content of the intestinal mucus barrier is reduced by about 70% compared to people who don’t have ulcerative colitis. Some research suggests that lecithin supplements may help replenish the mucus barrier and improve inflammatory activity in people with ulcerative colitis. A 2021 review of three studies found that delayed-release lecithin supplements containing 30% phosphatidylcholine helped improve disease activity and quality of life in people with ulcerative colitis. Might Help Infants and Parents Who Are Nursing Lecithin is rich in phosphatidylcholine, which is the main source of choline in U.S. diets. Choline is a nutrient that’s needed for cellular health, immune function, metabolism, lipid transport, and more. Choline is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as it’s necessary for fetal and infant brain development. Infants who were born prematurely might have supplemental lecithin added to human milk that is pumped to them through a plastic tube. The addition of lecithin can help prevent fat loss. People who are breastfeeding might experience clogged milk ducts. These painful lumps of milk form in the breast when the duct to the nipple is blocked. Supplemental lecithin has been used to clear the blocked duct. Good Sources of Lecithin Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of dietary lecithin, providing around 250mg of lecithin per large yolk. In fact, the word "lecithin" comes from “lekithos,” the Greek word for egg yolk. Other sources of dietary lecithin include: Soybeans and soybean oil Corn oil Sunflower seeds Canola oil Wheat germ Peanuts Fish Organ meat How to Use Lecithin Lecithin is most commonly sold in capsule form, but it can be found in powder form as well. Powdered lecithin supplements are a good choice for those who can’t or don’t like to swallow pills. Most lecithin supplement manufacturers suggest taking lecithin supplements with meals. Dosage There is no set guidance on how much lecithin supplement you should take per day. Many manufacturers make them in 1,200mg capsules, but there are lower and higher doses available. Lecithin dosing can vary depending on the condition it's being used to treat. If you have questions about lecithin dosing, it’s best to ask your healthcare provider for advice. You should also follow the product’s directions and warnings. Is Lecithin Safe? As an ingredient in food, lecithin is generally recognized as safe. Lecithin also seems to be safe in supplement form. It’s unknown whether high-dose supplementation is safe for infants or people who are breastfeeding. Lecithin supplements may also pose a safety risk to those who are allergic to eggs and soy since many of the supplements are derived from those allergens. Those who have such allergies and take lecithin might experience a skin reaction. Potential Drug Interactions Soy lecithin may interact with vitamin K antagonists, like warfarin, which are used to reduce blood clotting. Vitamin K antagonists are prescribed to prevent conditions like strokes and blood clots. If you’re taking an anticoagulant medication, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking lecithin supplements. What to Look For When shopping for a lecithin supplement, there’s a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s important to purchase products from reputable companies. Dietary supplements aren’t regulated in the same way as medicine, and dietary supplement manufacturers aren’t required to prove supplements’ safety or effectiveness before the products are sold to consumers. For these reasons, it’s best to research companies before you start shopping for lecithin supplements. Whenever possible, choose lecithin supplements from companies that use third-party labs to test their products for quality and purity, such as those certified by organizations like NSF International. Other factors to consider include supplement form, cost, and dosage. If you can’t tolerate swallowing capsules, consider purchasing a powdered lecithin supplement. Also, be sure to check the back of supplement containers to find out how many capsules or how many scoops of powder are required to meet the dosage recommendation. Can You Take Too Much Lecithin? Lecithin is considered safe and not associated with adverse side effects even at higher doses. However, this doesn’t mean you should take large doses of lecithin. If you have questions about lecithin dosing, speak with a healthcare provider. Side Effects of Lecithin Lecithin is usually well-tolerated. If any side effects do develop, they may include: Abdominal painDiarrheaFullnessNausea A Quick Review Lecithin is a collective name for a group of lipids naturally found in foods like egg yolks, liver, and soybeans. Lecithin can also be taken as a dietary supplement. Some studies have found that lecithin supplements may help reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis. They also provide a source of choline, a nutrient that’s essential for cellular health and nervous system function. Although lecithin supplements may be helpful for those with certain conditions, most people get plenty of lecithin through their diet and don’t need to take supplemental lecithin. 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