For decades, lecithin has been a popular treatment for high cholesterol (although there is surprisingly little evidence that it works). More recently, lecithin has been proposed as a remedy for various psychological and neurological diseases, such as Tourette's syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression).
Lecithin contains a substance called phosphatidylcholine (PC) that is presumed to be responsible for its medicinal effects. Phosphatidylcholine is a major part of the membranes surrounding our cells. However, when you consume this substance it is broken down into the nutrient choline rather than being carried directly to cell membranes. Choline acts like folate, TMG (trimethylglycine), and SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) to promote methylation. (See the article on TMG for further discussion of this subject.) It is also used to make acetylcholine , a nerve chemical essential for proper brain function.
This article discusses lecithin and phosphatidylcholine. For more information on the effects and possible benefits of Choline alone, see the full article on that subject.
Neither lecithin nor its ingredient phosphatidylcholine is an essential nutrient; however, choline has recently been recognized as essential. For use as a supplement or a food additive, lecithin is often manufactured from soy.
Ordinary lecithin contains about 10% to 20% phosphatidylcholine. However, European research has tended to use products concentrated to contain 90% phosphatidylcholine in lecithin, and the following dosages are based on that type of product. For psychological and neurological conditions, doses as high as 5 to 10 g taken three times daily have been used in studies. For liver disease, a typical dose is 350 to 500 mg taken three times daily; for high cholesterol, 500 to 900 mg taken three times daily has been tried.
Lecithin is believed to be generally safe. However, some people taking high dosages (several grams daily) experience minor but annoying side effects, such as abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and nausea. Maximum safe dosages for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease have not been determined.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -