If you’re a fan of dairy products such as cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, condensed or dried milk, then you have consumed soy lecithin. It’s a commonly used additive in these products for proper emulsification to improve your digestion process. However, it remains one of the ingredients that many people do not understand well. In this article, you will find all crucial information about this ingredient and why it is essential for your health and also find some of the soy lecitin benefits.
What is Soy Lecithin?
Soy lecithin consists of phospholipids and oils extracted from a raw soybean using chemical solvents such as hexane. The extracted soybean oil is processed through degumming, where water is thoroughly mixed with soy oil until lecithin is hydrated then separated from the oil. It is then dried and bleached with hydrogen peroxide.
Its composition varies from one producer to another. However, it contains approximately 35% soybean oil and 16% phosphatidylcholine on average.
Benefits of Soy Lecithin
Some of the benefits of soy lecithin include:
Reduces Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol can cause the formation of fatty deposits in your blood vessels leading to reduced blood flow in the arteries, putting you at higher risk of getting a heart attack, stroke, or hypertension(1). However, consuming food rich in soy lecithin can help you lower your cholesterol level. Studies indicate that lecithin can raise the “good” HDL cholesterol that helps remove other forms of cholesterol in your bloodstream and reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol that collects in your blood vessels, putting you at risk of heart attack or stroke. Soy lecithin also improves the health of your heart by improving the efficiency of cardiovascular functions.
Helpful to Breastfeeding Mothers
Breastfeeding mothers are at the risk of developing clogged ducts, causing mastitis, the swelling of the breast tissue that leads to pain and redness. One tablespoon or 1,200 milligrams of soy lecithin a day is always recommended for every lactating mother to prevent clogging by reducing the thickness of the breast milk. However, it is also essential to use other options, including massage, applying a warm compress, and draining the breast properly. If the condition continues, consult your doctor for special care.
Improved Digestion Process
Research shows that lecithin improves the digestion process, especially in people with ulcerative colitis. Its fat contains phosphatidylcholine that protects the colon from swelling and bacterial infections. Its emulsification also helps improve the intestinal mucus layer to protect the lining of the digestive system to ease the digestion process.
A study indicates that lecithin additives help reduce bowel swelling among people with ulcerative colitis by about 50 percent. Some of the common signs that can help you know whether you have ulcerative colitis include fever, weight loss, intense abdominal pain, bloody stools, and joint pain. It is also advisable to take lecithin supplements if you are suffering from bowel syndrome.
Improves the Brain Functions
Most health specialists recommend lecithin supplements to people who have Alzheimer’s disease. This is because lecithin contains choline chemicals that the brain uses to communicate, regulate mood, and sharpen memory. Foods rich in choline include fish, eggs, beef liver, broccoli, cauliflower, and nuts. Patients can also take choline as a supplement, and some of the best ones are alpha-GPC and CDP-choline. You can know when someone suffers from choline deficiency when they show the following symptoms:
- Hemorrhagic kidney necrosis
- Intense anxiety and restlessness
- Muscle damage
- Fatty liver (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD))
- Muscle damage,
- Neural tube defects and memory impairment among expectant mothers.
Anyone can get Alzheimer’s disease, but people over the age of 65 are more susceptible than others.
Improves Your Skin
Lecithin is one of the ingredients used in the production of skin care products because of the following benefits to the skin:
- It is an excellent moisturizer with high oleic and linoleic acid levels, which helps repair the damaged skin barrier. The high oleic and linoleic acid levels also help put moisture back into your skin to prevent it from drying. Drying skin can be very uncomfortable as it gets tight after showering or swimming, itchy, and can develop deep cracks that bleed
- Its phosphatidylcholine helps in treating minor acne problems to keep the skin healthy.
- It enhances skin penetration that allows other ingredients to penetrate deep into the skin to replenish missing lipids in the skin.
- It enhances oxidation that helps repair damages on the skin, and reduces aging signs.
Help with Manic-Depressive Disorder
Some researches show that taking lecithin can improve the health of individuals with manic-depressive disorder. This condition usually affects the brain and can be realized from the following signs:
- Difficulty in concentration and making decisions,
- Sudden loss of interest in activities one once enjoyed,
- Difficulty in settling down,
- Being sad or anxious most of the times,
- Increased talking speed, and
- Reduced need for sleep due to intense energy.
Dosage and Preparation
Lecithin is packed in various forms, powder, granules, tablets, liquid, capsule. There are usually no guidelines for the proper use of the products. Various producers give different dosing recommendations considering the ages of individuals. However, consulting your doctor is the best option to ensure you take the correct dose.
Risks and Complications
People allergic to soy lecithin need to be careful to find out whether the food they eat contains lecithin additives to avoid allergic reactions that can cause serious health problems. Other side effects that those taking supplements containing lecithin additives are likely to experience are nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal pain and bloating, and increased salivation.
Lecithin additives are always regarded as safe and are not monitored in the United States like other drugs. So it is essential to seek the opinion of your physician for a proper prescription while taking lecithin supplemented products or foods. You can also stay safe by choosing supplements that are independently tested and confirmed by the NSF International, ConsumerLab, or U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) and provided by a trusted lecithin distributor. These organizations can certify that the ingredients are safe for use.