Lecithin

background

Lecithin is a lipid, or fat, found in egg yolks, organ meats (such as kidney, liver, and intestines), nuts, and spinach. It is used to treat illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, liver disease, acne, anxiety, and weight loss. Lecithin has positive effects on blood lipids, especially in combination with plant compounds known as sterols.

Related Terms

Acetylcholine, buerlecithin fluid, choline, dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine, lecithin-bound iodine, lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase, lecithin-solubilized phytosterols, lecithin/sphingomyelin ratio, liposomal lecithin, lysophosphatidyl choline, phosphatidic acid, phosphatidyl, phosphatidyl esters, phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylinositol, phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylserine complex, plant sterols, soy lecithin, stanol/lecithin.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
 
Cognitive disorders (Grade: B)
Studies of the effect of lecithin on cognitive (memory and learning) disorders have been limited, and the results have been mixed. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Lipid lowering (Grade: B)
Studies suggest that lecithin, when given together with plant compounds known as sterols, improves the sterols' beneficial effect on cholesterol level. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Alzheimer's disease (Grade: C)
Preliminary evidence suggests that lecithin, when given in combination with other compounds, may improve mood and social skills in Alzheimer's patients. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Athletic performance (Grade: C)
Studies suggest that lecithin may stabilize or increase choline levels in the blood, which normally go down during intense exercise. However, no direct improvement of athletic performance has been described. Additional studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Cardiovascular health (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that soy lecithin may have a beneficial effect on blood vessel health. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Dementia (Grade: C)
Lecithin has been shown to be effective in increasing levels of choline in the blood in patients with a form of dementia (age-related loss of mental skills). Choline is a building block of the nerve-signaling chemical acetylcholine. Additional studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Friedreich's ataxia (Grade: C)
Although not well studied in humans, some research suggests that lecithin may help improve the symptoms of Friedreich's ataxia. Symptoms include difficulty walking and speaking, and heart disease. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Gallstones (Grade: C)
Surgery is often used to treat gallstones, but it doesn't prevent the formation of new stones. Preliminary studies suggest that lecithin may help dissolve gallstones. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Hepatitis (chronic) (Grade: C)
Although not well studied in humans, lecithin has been shown to have liver-protecting effects. Positive results have been seen when lecithin was given to patients with chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation) who had also received drugs to reduce the activity of the immune system. Further studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Mania (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that lecithin may have a beneficial effect on the symptoms of mania (abnormally elevated mood) in patients with bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness). Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Memory (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that lecithin may improve some forms of memory and learning in young adults. Further studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Parkinson's disease (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that lecithin may improve memory, mental processes, and movement in patients with Parkinson's disease. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
REM sleep behavior disorder (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that lecithin may not have an effect on the time it takes to get to the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. Additional research is needed.
Respiratory distress (Grade: C)
Preliminary research suggests that a lecithin-containing compound placed in the lungs of premature babies may help prevent respiratory distress syndrome (a breathing disorder) in premature infants. Further studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Stress-related disorders (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that a compound prepared from soy lecithin may have positive effects on responses to stress. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Tardive dyskinesia (Grade: C)
Preliminary research suggests that lecithin may help improve the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia (uncontrolled body movements), particularly in more serious cases. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Total parenteral nutrition (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that lecithin may have beneficial effects on fatty liver, a side effect of total parenteral nutrition (TPN). In TPN, patients receive all their nutrients in a solution that is injected into a vein. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.