Cholesterol Home > Soy Lecithin

Soy lecithin is commonly used as a food and drug additive, but can also be found as a dietary supplement. These supplements are claimed to be beneficial for numerous conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, high cholesterol, and bipolar disorder. However, more research is needed to confirm these claimed uses. Side effects that have been reported with soy lecithin supplements include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

What Is Soy Lecithin?

Lecithin is a substance found in the cell membranes of plants and animals. There are two main types of lecithin: egg lecithin and soy lecithin.
 
Soy lecithin is extracted from soybean oil. It is used as a food and drug additive (often as an emulsifier), but has become popular as a dietary supplement. Soy lecithin supplementation is claimed to be beneficial for many conditions, such as:
 
 
As with most soy products, people tend to have extreme opinions of soy lecithin, believing either that it is a wonderful "cure-all" with many health benefits or that it is a toxic byproduct that should be banned.
 
(Click Benefits of Soy Lecithin for more information on what this supplement is used for.)
 

How Does It Work?

Soy lecithin contains a mixture of numerous different compounds, such as:
 
 
Because soy lecithin is a complex mixture of different compounds, it is not entirely clear how it might work.
 
Soy lecithin contains choline, a compound that the body can use to make acetylcholine, an important brain chemical that is low in people with Alzheimer's disease. Interestingly, soy lecithin contains more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, which could potentially cause negative effects on heart health.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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