Soy lecithin is widely accepted both in conventional food stores and in natural food stores; It is often used as an ingredient in food products and is sold as a supplement to improve your health. However, surprisingly, there is much confusion (and perhaps even prejudice) about soy because it includes the word “soy”. It is important to say that the consumption of soy lecithin has advantages and disadvantages, but it is definitely not as bad as some say. When you choose the right soy products, you actually boast of having potential health benefits, such as your ability to lower cholesterol levels and stimulate brain function. But the world of soy lecithin can be complicated, since in fact it is made from soy, a food that I usually try to avoid unless it is fermented.
Read on to learn more about how soy is produced and whether or not it should be avoided like many other soy products on the market today.
Nutritional Information About Soy Lecithin:
Often extracted from soybean oil, an ounce (28 grams) of soy lecithin has the following nutritional content:
- 214 calories
- 28 grams of fat
- 1,438 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids
- 11,250 milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids
- 3 milligrams of vitamin E (11 percent DV)
- 51 micrograms of vitamin K (64 percent DV)
- 98 milligrams of choline (20 percent DV)
So why are lecithin supplements so popular and why are soy lecithin capsules used? Well, the answer lies in the fact that lecithin supplements contain a complex mixture of phospholipids, which make up the structure of the cell membrane and are used for energy storage. Two types of phospholipids that are all essential components for biological membranes include phosphatidicoline and phosphatidylserine. According to researchers in Japan, the administration of fresh phospholipids can work to replace damaged cell membranes and restore the structure and function of the cell membrane. This is called lipid replacement therapy and has been shown to improve fatigue, diabetes symptoms, degenerative diseases and metabolic syndrome. Phosphatidylcholine is one of the primary forms of choline and acts as an essential component in cell membrane signaling.
“Phosphatidylcholine is produced in the liver and becomes choline, which plays several important processes within the body”.
Phosphatidylserine is found in the membranes of all animals, higher plants and microorganisms. In humans, it is more concentrated in the brain and phosphatidylserine supplementation is often used to improve brain function in elderly patients. Research also shows that it could be beneficial for children and youth with ADHD and mental health conditions.
General Benefits of Soy Lecithin:
Soy lecithin also has potential health benefits, including its ability to:
- Improve cholesterol
- Serve as a source of choline
- Booster immunity
- Help the body deal with mental and physical stress
- Improve cognitive function
- Prevent osteoporosis
- Relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Possibly reduce the risk of cancer
Although there are many potential health benefits of soy lecithin, it is still commonly derived from genetically modified soybeans, so look for organic options whenever possible. Also, keep in mind that soy lecithin contains isoflavones, which can have estrogenic effects when ingested.
8 Potential Benefits of Soy Lecithin:
1. Improves Cholesterol Levels:
- Dietary supplementation with soy lecithin is more strongly connected with decreased hyperlipidemia and the influence on lipid metabolism.
- It is known for its important role in the processing of fat and cholesterol, so sometimes people take soy lecithin supplements to reduce cholesterol naturally.
- Research suggests that the properties of lecithin have the ability to reduce excess LDL cholesterol and promote the synthesis of HDL in the liver.
- A 2010 study published in the journal Cholesterol evaluated the levels of total cholesterol and LDL after administration of soy lecithin in patients with diagnosed levels of hypercholesterolemia. For the study, 30 volunteers took a supplement of 500 milligrams of soy lecithin every day, and the results were quite amazing.
- The researchers found that the following was true after patients supplemented with soy lecithin:
- A 41 percent reduction in total cholesterol after 1 month
- A 42 percent reduction in total cholesterol after 2 months
- A 42 percent reduction in LDL after 1 month
- A 56 percent reduction in LDL after 2 months
- This study suggests that soy lecithin could be used as a dietary supplement for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia.
2. Serves as a Hill Source:
- Soy lecithin contains phosphatidylcholine, which is one of the primary forms of choline, a macronutrient that plays an important role in liver function, muscle movement, metabolism, nerve function and proper brain development.
- According to researchers from the University of Wales Swansea, phosphatidylcholine supplementation has been found to help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, liver function and brain function. Many of the potential benefits of soy lecithin powder or supplements come from choline content.
3. Promotes the Immune System:
- It has been shown that soy lecithin supplements significantly stimulate immune function among diabetic rats.
- Brazilian researchers found that daily supplementation with soy lecithin caused the activity of macrophages (white blood cells that engulf foreign waste) of diabetic rats to increase by 29 percent.
- In addition, they discovered that the number of lymphocytes (fundamental white blood cells for the immune system) soared 92 percent in non-diabetic rats.
- This suggests that, at least in rats, soy lecithin has immunomodulatory effects.
- More research is needed to conclude the role of soy lecithin in the human immune system.
4. Help with Physical and Mental Stress:
- One of the many keys to the health benefits of soy lecithin is a compound known as phosphatidylserine – a common phospholipid that helps form part of cell membranes in plants and animals.
- It is known that it affects the stress hormones adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol, the phosphatidylserine derived from the cow brain has been shown to buffer the response to physical stress.
- The German researchers evaluated the effects that phosphatidylserine derived from soy lecithin compared with phosphatididic acid from soy lecithin and the phosphatidylserine complex (a combination called PAS) have on ACTH, cortisol and a psychological evaluation known as the subscale of stress of the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory.
- This study suggests that the specific properties of soy lecithin can have a selective stress damping effect and can even be used in the natural treatment of stress-related disorders.
5. Improve Cognitive Function:
- A 3-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Advances in Therapy evaluated the positive effects of a supplement containing a mixture of 300 milligrams of phosphatidylserine and 240 milligrams of phosphatidic acid that was produced from soy lecithin.
- The supplement or placebo was administered to elderly non-depressive patients with memory problems three times a day for three months.
- In a separate investigation, the supplement was administered to patients with Alzheimer’s disease to measure its effect on daily functioning, mental health, emotional status and general self-reported status.
- The researchers found that at the end of the treatment period, the mixture of supplements made of properties found in soy lecithin significantly improved memory and prevented “winter depression” in elderly patients compared to those who received the placebo.
- Among patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the group of supplements had a deterioration of 3.8 percent and a stability of 90.6 percent in daily functioning, compared to 17.9 percent and 79.5 percent under placebo.
- In addition, 49 percent of those in the treatment group reported an improvement in their general condition, compared with 26.3 percent of those who received the placebo.
- These findings suggest that phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid derived from soy lecithin may have a positive influence on memory, cognition and mood among older people and those suffering from cognitive disorders.
6. Prevents Osteoporosis:
- Although the research is mixed, there are studies that indicate that soy and soy-based products, including soy lecithin, act as antiresorbent agents and bone enhancers to prevent osteoporosis.
- This is due to the isoflavones found in soybeans, specifically glycosides.
- According to a scientific review published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, epidemiological studies have found that older Asian women have a lower incidence of hip fractures than Caucasian women, and additional research indicates that the consumption of soy products is much higher among Asians than among Caucasians.
- The researchers say that soy products could “potentially reduce the rate of bone loss and decrease the risk of fracture.” This may be due to the estrogenic effects of soybeans, since menopause-induced estrogen deficiency has been shown to accelerate bone loss in older women.
- It may also be due to the properties of soy (especially glycosides) that have antioxidant, antiproliferative, estrogenic and immunomodulatory effects.
7. Relieves the Symptoms of Menopause:
- In addition to its potential benefit for osteoporosis, research suggests that soy lecithin supplements may help improve menopausal symptoms by improving vigor and blood pressure levels in menopausal women.
- A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 2018 that included 96 women between the ages of 40 and 60 sought to investigate whether soy lecithin supplements could help relieve fatigue symptoms.
- The researchers found that improvements in fatigue symptoms, diastolic blood pressure and cardio-ankle vascular index (to measure arterial stiffness) were greater in the high dose group compared to the placebo group.
8. Prevents Cancer
- A 2011 study published in the journal Epidemiology found that there could be a reduced risk of breast cancer associated with the use of lecithin supplements.
- The researchers were unable to make any conclusive statement about it being a natural treatment for cancer, but suggested that their findings should be considered as “hypothesis generators.”
- This relationship between soy lecithin and decreased breast cancer risk may be due to the presence of phosphatidylcholine in soybean lecithin, which becomes choline when ingested.
Dangers and Side Effects:
- Although there are a number of potential benefits of consuming soy lecithin, there are also some dangers and side effects that you should be aware of before choosing foods or supplements that contain this ingredient.
- On the one hand, consider the extraction process that is required to obtain soy lecithin from soybeans.
- Hexane is a solvent that is used to extract oils from seeds and vegetables.
- It is also used as a solvent for glues and varnishes, and as a cleaning agent in the printing industry.
- Hexane is used in the extraction process when lecithin is separated from soy beans and then removed through another multi-step process.
- But there may be residues of hexane residues, and this is not regulated by the FDA. So we don’t know exactly how much hexane there may be in the soy you are eating, and the EPA lists several dangerous side effects of hexane inhalation exposure, including mild effects on the central nervous system such as dizziness, nausea and aches head.
- Another problem I have with soy lecithin is that, unless it is labeled “organic soy lecithin,” it probably comes from genetically modified soybeans.
- Is soy lecithin genetically modified? Well, in general terms, as soy is extracted from soybean oil, which is almost always modified generically, the answer is usually yes.
- An important problem is that the original source of soy is almost impossible to locate, so it can come very well from transgenic soybeans and one would not know.
- The end result is that ingestion of soy has some potential health benefits, but it also has some disadvantages.