Lecithin is a substance that is commonly used as a food and drug additive but is also available as a dietary supplement. Although it is claimed to be beneficial for numerous conditions, including bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease, and high cholesterol, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to suggest that the supplement is indeed effective. Potential side effects of lecithin include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
What Is Lecithin?
Lecithin is a substance found in the cell membranes of plants and animals. It is used as a food and drug additive (often as an emulsifier) but has become popular as a dietary supplement. Lecithin supplementation is claimed to be beneficial for many conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, gallbladder disease, liver disease, bipolar disorder, and high cholesterol. There are two main types of the supplement, soy lecithin and egg lecithin.
The substance is a complex mixture of various different compounds. However, the term "lecithin" is sometimes used to describe just one particular phospholipid (phosphatidylcholine) found in the mixture.
(Click Lecithin Benefits for more information on what the supplement is used for.)
How Does It Work?
Because lecithin is a complex mixture of different compounds, it is not entirely clear how it might work. It contains a mixture of different compounds, such as fatty acids, triglycerides, carbohydrates, and phospholipids. Lecithin contains choline, a compound that the body can use to make acetylcholine, an important brain chemical that is low in people with Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, it contains more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, which could potentially cause negative effects for heart health.