Lecithin

Other Name(s):

alpha-phosphatidylcholines, lecithinum ex soya, sojalecithin, soy lecithin

General Description:

Lecithin does not refer to a single chemical but rather to a group of closely related chemicals. Lecithins in turn belong to a larger group of compounds called phospholipids, which are important components of the brain, blood, nervous tissue and other tissues. The body uses lecithin in the transporting of fats and in the metabolic process. Lecithins consist of a base structure containing choline and a phosphate group called the L-alpha-glycerophosphorylcholine skeleton. To this skeleton is attached a long fatty-acid chain. The length and position of the chain determines the type of lecithin.

People are probably most familiar with lecithin as the oily film on their frying pan when they use a non-stick cooking spray.

Recommended Intake:

The usual daily adult dose is 3.5 g. Lecithin is available in capsules.

Foods containing lecithin include egg yolks, soybeans, wheat germ, peanuts and liver.

Signs of lecithin deficiency are not obvious. Whatever signs and symptoms may be present are thought to be related to choline deficiency.

Choline deficiency in animals may lead to abnormal liver function and kidney damage. Choline-associated liver dysfunction has led to liver cancer in laboratory animals, but such a link has not been demonstrated in humans.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

Lecithin in normal doses may cause stomachache, diarrhea or loose stools. Information is not yet available concerning excessive lecithin intake.

There are no known contraindications to lecithin.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician before taking any dietary supplements.

There are no known significant food or drug interactions.

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.

References:

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  12. Melancon SB, Dallaire L, Potier M, et al. Oral lecithin and linoleic acid in Friedreich's ataxia: III. Biochemical results. Can J Neurol Sci. 1982;9(2):165-9.

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