How Lecithin Benefits Your Health
Confusing lecithin with lectin is a relatively common and understandable mistake; but it could be a costly one! Just to be clear, here I will take you through the range of lecithin benefits.
The two are very different. Lectin is a class of plant proteins with the ability to bind sugars and minerals. Lecithin, our focus here, is a fatty substance found in foods like egg yolk, meat, soy, and some vegetables.
You may have seen it on the list of ingredients on packaged food. It’s regularly added to processed foods to keep them from separating. It’s also used in some medications.
You may also have seen the name in health food stores, where it is sold as either granules or capsules to help people lower cholesterol levels or targeting those on fat-loss routines.
So how can something added to processed foods be of benefit to us as we look to get healthier? Aren’t we told that processed foods need to be avoided?
Well, lecithin is actually a mix of different phospholipids. Don’t worry too much about the name – they are types of fat present in cell membranes.
Our main concern here is a substance called phosphatidylcholine (PC). Again, you don’t need to remember the name but you do need to know that PC builds healthy cell walls and allows proper cell signaling.
PC is also a primary ingredient in bile, circulating lipoproteins and acting as an antioxidant. When standardized to above 30% PC, a lecithin supplement is considered PC ‘enriched’.
The lecithin in Athletic Greens is standardized to 95% PC and we believe that this type provides the most benefits for health.
But how, specifically, does lecithin benefit health? More about that below…
What Are The Main Lecithin Benefits?
You know basically what lecithin is – but why exactly do we include it in Athletic Greens?
Fat loss may be a side benefit of taking lecithin. More importantly, it should be considered as vital for conditions of the cardiovascular, brain and nervous systems. It is found in highest concentrations in the brain, heart, liver and kidneys.
In fact, the brain is made up of almost 30% lecithin by dry weight!
And you probably didn’t know that lecithin is converted into a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in the brain. Why would you know that? But it may help explain why lecithin benefits cognition, memory, and the nervous system.
PC-enriched lecithin also has a long history of use for treating diseases of the liver, and there are several secondary benefits worth considering (see the section below).
In summary, scientific research supports the use of lecithin for:
→ Lowering total cholesterol
One study from 2012 found that 500 mg of lecithin per day over the course of 8 weeks lowered total cholesterol by 42% and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol by 56%.
→ Lowering triglycerides and boosting ‘good’ HDL cholesterol
A study from 2010 found that lecithin was able to lower the triglyceride content of the blood as well as boost the amount of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
→ General cardiovascular health
The power of lecithin to reduce inflammation and to help regulate cholesterol levels makes it an important constituent of general cardiovascular health.
→ Conditions of the liver
Lecithin has long been associated with helping heal liver damage due to alcohol, chemicals, viruses or pharmaceuticals.
→ Enhanced cognitive function
Lecithin has recently shown positive effects on mood, daily functioning, and cognition of elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Other Possible Lecithin Benefits
A range of important secondary lecithin benefits support the main benefits described above.
→ Supporting respiratory, intestinal, and vascular health
Lecithin acts as a surfactant, which is a compound that reduces surface tension and enables emulsification. This gives it potential in helping with a wide range of health matters including respiratory, intestinal and vascular health.
Because of the benefits of lecithin to cardiovascular and cognitive health, as well as its antioxidant benefits, it’s not hard to see how it can help with anti-aging treatment.
→ Supporting absorption of other nutrients
One important factor in effective supplementing that we continually stress at Athletic Greens is the ability to absorb the nutrients we ingest.
Lecithin has been shown to help in the absorption of nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K. It can also help the body absorb herbs and compounds such as boswellia serrata, curcurmin, silymarin, resveratrol, grape seed extract, and green tea.
Additionally, there are studies that support the use of lecithin in kidney, intestinal, and skin health, as well as providing benefits for the immune system.
How To Enjoy Lecithin Benefits Safely
Therapeutic dosages of lecithin range from 500 to 2400 mg, depending on the condition. Higher doses are indicated for conditions of the liver, with upwards of 4 grams daily indicated for severe liver disease.
Please note that soy and sunflower are the two most common sources of lecithin, with canola now being touted as the next ‘big thing’.
Soy-derived lecithin may pose a problem for people with soy allergies, depending on the protein content. This was found to vary between 100 to 1,400ppm in six different soy lecithin samples.
But beware of a myth about soy in lecithin supplements. The fact is that most high-quality standardized extracts, like those used in Athletic Greens, contain minimal soy protein.
A common misconception we find about soy-derived lecithin is that it will create the negative effects on the body most commonly associated with concentrated soy products like tofu or soy protein isolate.
This is simply not true. Once the lecithin is extracted, there is little to no actual ‘soy’ left. It is simply written on the label because of the requirement to specify the source of the lecithin.
Some companies play on this fear and promote protein supplements that never use soy, instead using sunflower-derived lecithin. This is nothing more than fear-mongering and it’s unfortunate that some supplement companies stoop to doing this.
Who Should Supplement With Lecithin?
With the main lecithin benefits being for the cardiovascular, brain, and nervous systems, most people could do with a boost. These critical areas of health are amongst those most compromised by modern diets and lifestyles.
Lecithin is often absent or deficient in people’s diets. While egg yolk is an excellent source, many people avoid eating them because of fears over cholesterol. And of course, vegans avoid eggs altogether.
The properties of lecithin and its benefits for health are already well-supported by studies. In fact, most current evidence supports the use of PC-enriched lecithin for lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides and/or boosting levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
It also shows positive effects on cognition, especially in the elderly. Remember that the brain is made up of 30% lecithin, indicating how important it is to receive it daily.
The good news for people taking Athletic Greens is that, while the effect of lecithin on cholesterol levels may take time (though it is possible to see improvements between scheduled blood tests), the cognitive benefits are often noticed reasonably quickly.
Lecithin may also help people heal faster from liver disease, and a range of other, secondary benefits are likely to be the subject of future studies.
Within Athletic Greens, lecithin works well with beta glucans and policosanol to lower LDL cholesterol. It also works well alongside gotu kola to enhance cognitive function and focus, and with milk thistle, globe artichoke and dandelion root to aid liver health.
So, what are you waiting for? Get your daily hit of all the above in one easy scoop!