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Lecithin

Lecithin is also known as alpha-phosphatidylcholines, lecithinum ex soya, sojalecithin, or soy lecithin.

General description

Lecithin is a group of chemicals that are related. It isn’t a single chemical. Lecithins belong to a larger group of compounds called phospholipids. These are important parts of the brain, blood, nerves, and other tissues. Phospholipids are also a part of cell membranes.

The body uses lecithin in the metabolic process and to move fats. Lecithins turn into choline in the body. They help make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Lecithin is commonly used as a food additive to emulsify foods. Many people know lecithin as the oily film on their frying pan when they use a nonstick cooking spray.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

Lecithin is used to treat dementia and Alzheimer disease. It's also used to treat gallbladder disease. It may also help treat fatty liver (hepatic steatosis) in people on long-term parenteral nutrition. But the role of lecithin is not well defined and confirmed.

Recommended intake

Lecithin comes in capsules, liquid, and granules. There is no recommended intake amount.

Foods that have lecithin include:

  • Egg yolks

  • Soybeans

  • Wheat germ

  • Peanuts

  • Liver

Signs of lecithin deficiency aren’t clear. They are more likely to be caused by choline deficiency, not lecithin.

Choline deficiency is rare. It may lead to: 

  • Muscle damage

  • Liver problems

  • Kidney damage

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

In normal doses, lecithin may cause side effects. These can include stomach aches, diarrhea, or loose stools. It isn’t known what symptoms would occur if you take too much lecithin.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any supplements.

There are no known food or medicine interactions with lecithin.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
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