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Important lecithin facts

Lecithin is a fatty substance which is found in high concentrations in the cell membrane (phospholipid). Every living cell of the body requires lecithin because of its requirement in creating cell membranes. Lecithin is both water and oil soluble and regulates the movement of fats and nutrients entering and leaving the cell.

Lecithin is required for a whole range of body functions, including infant and foetal development and as an aid in reproduction, is essential in keeping the liver and gall bladder healthy and for heart health.

The body uses lecithin both for the proper formation of bile (the body's main emulsifying compound), and as an emulsifying agent itself. Lecithin helps the body use and absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

Lecithin is an important precursor to the main neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which plays an important role in memory and muscles control. Myelin sheaths that protect the brain, spine and thousands of nerves in the body are almost two-thirds lecithin.

Soy lecithin, a constituent included in most processed and packaged foods is included as a natural emulsifier or stabiliser, is extracted during the processing of soybean oil. It promotes solidity in margarine and gives a consistent texture to salad dressing and other creamy products.

  • The body produces its own lecithin in the liver.
  • The brain consists of 30% lecithin
  • Lecithin is an excellent source of the vitamin B cofactor, choline (choline is part of the lecithin molecule)
  • Around 20% of the lecithin found in plants and natural foods consists of phosphatidylcholine
  • Choline is so vital in infant development that all baby formula must contain this nutrient
  • Lecithin is a phospholipid, which is part of cell membranes
  • Lecithin granules contain higher concentrations of phosphatidylcholine
  • Lecithin is a good source of linolenic acid

Lecithin and health

  • Candidiasis (thrush) - several studies have shown that acidophilus supplements taken either orally or instead as a suppository into the vagina may prevent or control vaginal yeast infections (candidiasis) caused by Candida albicans
  • People taking antibiotics - while beneficial for combating infections, antibiotics actually disturb the balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina. To restore the balance of "good" bacteria, acidophilus supplements are usually recommended either during or after the course of antibiotics
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease - this disorder causes a chronic inflammation of the bowels. Acidophilus may assist in overall bowel health
  • People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - acidophilus may help to relieve diarrhoea associated with IBS, as well as replenishing the good bacteria that diarrhoea removes

People who wish to take an acidophilus supplement should talk to a medical professional BEFORE taking it.

Lecithin recommended intake

Dosage of lecithin depends on the condition that is being treated. A medical doctor and/or alternative health care provider can advise on individual cases - this information is provided as a guide only:

Lifestage Age Amount (per day)
INFANTS 0-12mths Not recommended
CHILDREN 1-8yrs Not recommended
CHILDREN 9-18yrs
Seek medical advice before taking it
ADULTS 19-50yrs
1 Tbsp granules or 1 capsule per day
SENIORS 51+yrs 1 Tbsp granules or 1 capsule per day
PREGNANT   Not recommended
LACTATING   Not recommended


Lecithin in foods

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FOOD AMOUNT Lecithin (mg)
Maize 100g 953
Liver 100g 850
Soya beans 100g 740
Trout 100g 580
Wheat 20g 564
Peanuts 50g 557
Meat 100g 450-750
Eggs 1 medium 350
Oats 50g 325
Rice 100g 290
Butter 20g 30

Types of lecithin supplements

Lecithin supplementation is available in the following ways:

  • Capsules - lecithin powder is added to capsules
  • Tablet - lecithin is compressed and formed into tablets
  • Powder - extracted from soybeans and crushed into a powder
  • Granules - soybeans that have been granularised
  • Soft gel Capsules - filled with soybean lecithin liquid
  • Liquid - soy lecithin is extracted into a liquid oil

Lecithin supplementation checklist

  • Lecithin should be taken with meals to increase absorption
  • Granular lecithin has a nutty/grainy flavour and can be added to cereals, juice or smoothies
  • Choose non-genetically modified lecithin supplements (the long term effects of genetic modification are not yet known and erring on the side of caution is advisable)
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight - storage in the refrigerator is preferred

Lecithin works best with

Overdosage, toxicity and cautions for lecithin

In generally healthy adults, there are no health concerns or contraindications at normal dosage.

In high doses choline may cause the following side-effects:

  • nausea
  • sweating
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • bloating


  • People with bipolar disorder and depression - should not use lecithin as it can worse the depressive stage of the illness
  • People with any psychiatric condition - should get medical advice before taking lecithin



  • Barbeau, Andre M.D., John H. Growdon, M.D., Richard J. Wurtman, Nutrition and the Brain: Choline and Lecithin in Brain Disorders, (1979) Vol. 5, Raven Press, NY, 73, 76, 83, 113, 444
  • Hirano K, Kachi S, Ushida C, Naito M. Corneal and macular manifestations in a case of deficient lecithin: cholesterol acyltransferase. Jpn J Ophthalmol. Jan-Feb 2004;48(1):82-4
  • Kuivenhoven JA, Pritchard H, Hill J, et al. The molecular pathology of lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) deficiency syndromes. J Lipid Res. Feb 1997;38(2):191-205
  • Lamireau T, Bouchard G, Yousef IM, Clouzeau-Girard H, Rosenbaum J, Desmouliere A, Tuchweber B. Dietary Lecithin Protects Against Cholestatic Liver Disease in Cholic Acid-Fed Abcb4- Deficient Mice.Pediatr Res. 2007 Feb;61(2):185-190
  • Santamarina-Fojo S, Hoef J, Assmann G. Lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase deficiency and fish-eye disease. In: Wonsiewicz M, Noujaim S, Boyle P, eds. The Metabolic and Molecular Bases of Inherited Disease. 2817-33
  • Zeisel, SH. Choline: needed for normal development of memory. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000; 19: 528S-531S.

Last reviewed 21 April 2019