Lecithin side effects,benefits, research

This article was re-formated on August 15, 2010
Lecithin side effects
have been reported in a
few cases. Mostly, the
lecithin side effects
came from injections or
over-ingestion. Oral
lecithin, in general, is
safe and lecithin
supplements are well
accepted, in general.
Background - The function of lecithin

White chocolate is technically not chocolate, because it doesn't contain chocolate solids.
Instead, it is made with a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, milk products, vanilla, and
Lecithin can be found native in a number of different foods such as eggs, dairy products, and
meats, but the primary source that is used today comes from soybean

Lecithin is an essential fatty substance that also protects cell membranes from hardening. High
concentrations of lecithin are found in the brain and prostate gland. Lecithin is largely
composed of choline, plus linoleic acid and inositol. It acts as an emulsifying agent, enabling
fats and other lipids to be dispersed in water.

Phosphatidyl choline (a different kind of lecithin) is a powerful fat-emulsifying compound. It
solubilizes fats and cholesterol in the bloodstream and solubilizes dietary fats in the intestinal
mucosa. It maintains the structural integrity of cell membranes.

Lecithin is also a source of choline, a B vitamin with powerful lipotropic activity. Choline is
utilized by virtually every cell for synthesis of various phospholipids, proteins, and the


Potential Health Benefits of Lecithin Supplements

Lecithin is a very important component of VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) that helps to
transport fats around the body from the liver. The proven health benefits of lecithin can be
achieved by taking soybean phospholipids, lecithin. The benefits may include lipid-lowering;
control of blood levels of cholesterol and triglyceride, stabilisation of the membrane functions,
supporting the hepatic functions.

Lecithin Supplements Marketed as A Support to Liver Function

Administration of choline or lecithin raises plasma and brain choline and acetylcholine levels.
Some people take lecithin supplement mainly for proper liver function and fat utilization. Oral
choline, phosphatidylcholine or lecithin supplements are also marketed as an agent to alleviate
neurological motor disturbances, restore cognition and memory, ameliorate symptoms of
tardive dyskinesia and Alzheimer's disease.

Lecithin is also marketed as a weight-loss aid. While, the total amount of fat calories for most
commercial lecithin products is about 100-200 calories.  Once, I took lecithin for weeks, I
couldn't loss any weight. How are about you? Can you tell me your story?

Scientific Evidence

As early as 1966, Japanese researchers have already evaluated the cholesterol-lowering
effect of iodine-lecithin.
[7] Then in 1977, Simons LA et al showed use of oral lecithin to lower
cholesterol in an open clinical trial. In 1/3 of healthy subjects and in 3/7 patients suffered from
hypercholesterolaemia, lecithin therapy led to a significant fall in plasma cholesterol
concentration (10-18% fall).

Other Studies

Attia YA and co-workers at Alexandria University, Egypt reported that daily lecithin
supplementation with isonitrogenous diets could improve productive and reproductive
performance of crossbred hens! [13]

Jeyendran RS and co-workers found phospholipids extracted from lecithin was effective for
human sperm cryopreservation! [14]

Lamireau T at CHU Sainte-Justine, Quebec, Canada, found lecithin supplementation offered
beneficial or protective effects for certain types of liver damage in an animal study. [15]


In 1996, A French research group demonstrated that lecithin diet could lower the total and
HDL-cholesterol level. They believed that the cholesterol-lowering effect of lecithin was related
to hepatic microsomal pools of phosphatidylcholine and cholesterol.

Four years later, this research group demonstrated that the cholesterol-lowering mechanisms
induced by dietary soybean lecithin in hypercholesterolemic rabbits at the hepato-biliary level
in a study using rabbits. They also showed that the soybean phosphatidylcholine (lecithin) could
actually lower cholesterol level by retarding the intestinal absorption of cholesterol in study of
endothelial cells.

Synergistic Effect on Cholesterol Level

Wilson TA et al at University of Massachusetts Lowell demonstrated that soy lecithin enhanced
the cholesterol-lowering effect of the American Heart Association Step I diet without reducing
plasma HDL-C levels.
[11] ]

Gurevich VS et al, Cardiology Institute, S. Petersburg, Russia, found an improved effect on
lipid-reducing action when lovastatin was combined with Lipostabil (lecithin) in the therapy.

The kinds of the side effects of lecithin depend on the method of use. Here is a summary of
the incidents of side effects reported in various studies:

Side effect related to ingestion

A case was reported that a healthy man ingested a large amount of vegetable oil and lecithin.
Abdominal pain, early satiety, and significant weight loss were developed, finally surgical
removal of the "mass" was applied.

In a study of 5 ambulatory volunteers with a chronic indwelling T-tube, phospholipid (i.e.
lecithin) feeding was safe and was an effective vehicle for lecithin fatty acyl chain modulation
of bile and lipid membranes. [5]

Side effects related to injection

In an intraperitoneal treatment with hybrid liposomes made of lecithin derivatives n a cancer
model of mice, no abnormal findings in blood chemistry, no serious side effects were
observed. [4] In a treatment of intraobital fat pad herniation, patients received 0.4 mL a
lecithin-derived phospholipid injections. Improvement of the conditions was observed but
incidents of side effects were also reported. The side effects were burning, erythema, and
swelling at the injection site. [2] In another study of reducing fatty pads, volunteers received
phosphatidylcholine injections at several areas of localized fat deposits. Again, improvement
of the conditions and side effects of the applications were reported. [3]

[1] Hsu HH et al, Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, California, Gastric bezoar caused by lecithin: an
unusual complication of health faddism. Am J Gastroenterol. 1992 Jun;87(6):794-6.][2] Ablon G et al, Treatment of
lower eyelid fat pads using phosphatidylcholine (a lecithin derived phospholipid): clinical trial and review. Dermatol
Surg. 2004 Mar;30(3):422-7; discussion 428, [3] Hexsel D et al, Phosphatidylcholline in the treatment of localized fat. J
Drugs Dermatol. 2003 Oct;2(5):511-8. [4] chihara H et al, Chemotherapy with hybrid liposomes without any drug in
vivo. Yakugaku Zasshi. 2003 Jan;123(1):25-34. [5] Pakula R et al, The effects of dietary phospholipids enriched with
phosphatidylethanolamine on bile and red cell membrane lipids in humans. Lipids 1996 Mar;31(3):295-303. [6]
Ipatova OM et al, Biological effects of the soybean phospholipids, Biomed Khim. 2004 Sep-Oct;50(5):436-50] [7] On
cholesterol-lowering agents. 1. On the cholesterol-lowering effectiveness of an organic iodine preparation
(Jod-lecithin) Iryo. 1963 Apr;17:243-9. Japanese.][7] Treatment of hypercholesterolaemia with oral lecithin. Aust N Z J
Med. 1977 Jun;7(3):262-6.][8]Polichetti E. et al, Cholesterol-lowering effect of soyabean lecithin in normolipidaemic
rats by stimulation of biliary lipid secretion. Br J Nutr. 1996 Mar;75(3):471-8.](9)Dietary polyenylphosphatidylcholine
decreases cholesterolemia in hypercholesterolemic rabbits: role of the hepato-biliary axis. Life Sci. 2000 Oct
13;67(21):2563-76. [10] Dietary soybean phosphatidylcholines lower lipidemia: mechanisms at the levels of intestine,
endothelial cell, and hepato-biliary axis. Dietary soybean phosphatidylcholines lower lipidemia: mechanisms at the
levels of intestine, endothelial cell, and hepato-biliary axis. J Nutr Biochem. 2000 Sep;11(9):461-6.] [11] Soy lecithin
reduces plasma lipoprotein cholesterol and early atherogenesis in hypercholesterolemic monkeys and hamsters:
beyond linoleate. Atherosclerosis. 1998 Sep;140(1):147-53. [12] Evidence of combined therapy of dyslipoproteinemia
by HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors and "essential" phospholipids. Clin Ter. 1993 Apr;142(4):329-34.] [13] Improving
productive and reproductive performance of dual-purpose crossbred hens in the tropics by lecithin supplementation.
Trop Anim Health Prod. 2008 Jul 26. [14] Cryopreservation of human sperm in a lecithin-supplemented freezing
medium.Fertil Steril. 2008 Feb 2. [15] Dietary lecithin protects against cholestatic liver disease in cholic acid-fed
Abcb4- deficient mice. Pediatr Res. 2007 Feb;61(2):185-90