What is lecithin? You are probably familiar with the word. In fact, you may even be taking it as a supplement. But what is lecithin really? Where does it come from? And what can it do for you? ‘What is lecithin?’ and other such questions are what we are going to tackle in this article.
Actually the term lecithin connotes two meanings that are somewhat related but are not used in the same sense. In biochemistry and other related science, lecithin is a synonym for phosphatidyl choline. It is the main lipid component in biological membranes, like our cell membranes or cell walls of plants.
On the other hand, commercial lecithin is actually a natural mixture of neutral and polar lipids, including glycolipids, triglycerides, sterols, and small quantities of fatty acids, carbohydrates, and sphingolipids. The polar lipid Phosphatidyl choline is present in commercial lecithin in concentrations of 20 to 90%.
Where does Lecithin come from?
After asking what lecithin is, you want to know where it is found. Lecithin that contains phosphatidyl choline is produced mainly from vegetable sources, although it may also be found in animal and microbial sources.
Majority of commercial lecithins sold in the market today come from soybean (mostly), sunflower, and grape seed. When talking about plant lecithins, the most common source is soybean.
When Maurice Gobley, the French scientist discoverer of lecithin, found lecithin in egg yolk in 1950, egg yolk was the sole source of lecithin used by the commercial food industry.
However, by the 1930s, the time when soybean lecithin was discovered, egg yolk no longer held its former place of being the major source of lecithin for commercial use. Today, it is not even a major source of lecithin in nutritional supplements. The reason may be that lecithins that come from plants are GRAS or generally regarded as safe.
Who Needs to Take Lecithin?
When you know all there is to know about what is lecithin, then you probably know already that the substance is synthesized by the body from food.
This means that it is not an essential nutrient, since the body can always get its supply of lecithin from its diet. This is also one of the reasons why hardly anyone ever suffers a deficiency in lecithin.
Still, having a steady supply of lecithin for our body’s use is good, if only to take advantage of the benefits it has to offer.
It’s always important to get advice from a doctor before taking anything new in your diet.
Although in most cases doctors give good sound medical advice or treatment, sometimes human errors can occur. For further information or advice on the process of claiming, visit medical claims.
Lecithin is naturally found in the foods that we eat, especially rich foods, such as egg yolk, soybeans, grains, wheat germ, fish, legumes, yeast, peanuts, etc.
The compound can also be found as supplement sold to the public. Lecithin capsules, powder, or granules are sold in many food and drug stores, often marketed as weight loss promoting supplements for dieters and weight loss enthusiasts.
In addition to that, lecithin is also taken in a pill form or mixed into health shakes.
What is lecithin’s claim to health?
The following are some of the many health claims that lecithin is said to have:
- Cardiovascular health
- Liver and cell function
- Fat transport and fat metabolism
- Reproduction and child development
- Treatment for gallstones
- Improvement in memory, learning and reaction time
- Healthy hair and skin
- Cell communication
- Physical performance and muscle endurance
- Relief of arthritis