Lecithin is best known as a weight-loss product but experts now believe it may benefit us in other ways too ranging from better skin health through to sharpening our memories.

What is Lecithin?

Lecithin is a fat-like substance found in the cells of all living creatures. It plays a role in regulating the nutrients that enter and exit cells.

Lecithin is rich in a vitamin B complex nutrient called choline which helps remove fat from the liver. Choline may also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Choline is water-soluable which means it gets passed out in our urine, so we need to consume choline regularly to retain enough in our bodies to keep us healthy. Good dietary sources include egg yolk, grains, wheatgerm, fish, yeast and peanuts.

Lecithin is also available as a supplement in capsules, powdered or in granules and can be added to health shakes. Lecithin supplements are derived from soybeans and egg yolks and are rich in choline.

Why do I need Lecithin?

Lecithin supplement acts as a choline source and is thought to stimulate the metabolism of cholesterol, helping to break down fat into small pieces in the bloodstream so that these can get flushed out rather than stored in the body. Lecithin may also lower cholesterol but studies have been inconclusive.

A study from the US has shown that lecithin supplements reduce fat in the liver of mice. The researchers are now testing this on humans.*

Lecithin may also have other benefits. Some experts have linked it to improved cardiovascular health, better liver and cell function, healthier hair and skin and relief of arthritis. More research is needed in all these areas. The findings are often contradictory with some papers suggesting lecithin may work for some people but not others.

As lecithin produces the neurotransmitter acetylcholine - a chemical that enables communication between brain cells - it is thought lecithin may improve memory and lessen symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. In one study a high dose of lecithin did appear to help older patients with senile dementia.* Once again further exploration is needed.

Can Lecithin supplements ever be bad for you?

Do not take lecithin supplements if you are allergic to soy.

Side-effects are not common in people taking lecithin supplements (typical doses being between 10-30g per day) but in high doses you may experience stomach upsets, diarrhoea, headaches and nausea.