• Egg Lecithin, Phosphatidylcholine in Lecithin, Soy Lecithin
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
(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
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
This article discusses lecithin and phosphatidylcholine. For more information on the effects and possible benefits of
Neither lecithin nor its ingredient phosphatidylcholine is an essential nutrient; however, choline
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.
For a while, lecithin/phosphatidylcholine was one of the most commonly recommended natural treatments for
. However, this idea appears to rest entirely on studies of unacceptably low quality.
Researchers have recently become interested in the use of phosphadylcholine as a supportive treatment in severe
Because phosphatidylcholine plays a role in nerve function, it has also been suggested as a treatment for various psychological and neurological disorders, such as
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.
3. Oosthuizen W, Vorster HH, Vermaak, WJ, et al. Lecithin has no effect on serum lipoprotein, plasma fibrinogen and macro molecular protein complex levels in hyperlipidaemic men in a double-blind controlled study. Eur J Clin Nutr . 1998;52:419-424.
4. Buchman AL, Dubin M, Jenden D, et al. Lecithin increases plasma free choline and decreases hepatic steatosis in long-term total parenteral nutrition patients. Gastroenterology . 1992;102:1363-1370.
10. Schuller-Perez A, Gonzalez San Martin F. A controlled study with polyunsaturated phosphatidylcholine compared to placebo in alcoholic steatosis of the liver [translated from German]. Med Welt . 1985;36:517-521.
11. Knuchel F. Double-blind study in patients with alcoholic toxic fatty liver. Effect of essential phospholipids on enzyme behavior and lipid composition of the serum [translated from German]. Med Welt . 1979;30:411-416.
12. Jenkins PJ, Portmann BP, Eddleston AL, et al. Use of polyunsaturated phosphatidylcholine in HBsAg negative chronic active hepatitis: results of prospective double-blind controlled trial. Liver . 1982;2:77-81.
13. Niederau C, Strohmeyer G, Heintges T, et al. Polyunsaturated phosphatidyl-choline and interferon alpha for treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C: a multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Hepatogastroenterology. 1998;45:797-804.
15. Stoll AL, Sachs GS, Cohen BM, et al. Choline in the treatment of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder: clinical and neurochemical findings in lithium-treated patients. Biol Psychiatry . 1996;40:382-388.
27. Childs MT, et al. The contrasting effects of a dietary soya lecithin product and corn oil on lipoprotein lipids in normolipidemic and familial hypercholesterolemic subjects. Atherosclerosis . 198;38:217-228.
29. Olthof MR, Brink EJ, Katan MB, et al. Choline supplemented as phosphatidylcholine decreases fasting and postmethionine-loading plasma homocysteine concentrations in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82:111-117.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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