Our cells need it. Our tissues need it. Our muscles need it. In fact, our whole body needs it. So what is it about lecithin benefits that our body craves? Especially when lecithin is apparently no more just another type of lipid, and lipid, if you don’t know yet, is just another term for “fat.” Yes, that’s shocked right there, and there’s dumbfounded, along with a whispered: “So…fat…can be good for the body, too?”
The answer is an absolute YES! But before we drop our jaws completely at that shocking news, let’s discuss what lecithin is, shall we? And while we do that, why not include in our discussion the lecithin benefits that make this type of fat so uniquely good for the body?
Lecithin, the Good Fat
Depending on who you’re talking with, lecithin can have two different meanings. Commercially, the term refers to a complex mixture of neutral and polar lipids that is popularly used as an emulsifier and/or lubricant. In biochemistry, it refers to phosphatidylcholine (PC), a phospholipid compound comprised of glycerol, two fatty acids (linoleic acid and inositol), a phosphate group and choline (a type of B vitamin).
Lecithin is typically found in the cell membrane or cell walls of every single living cell of an organism, whether plant or animal in origin. As you may already know, the cell membranes or cell walls are a semi-permeable layer that is responsible for regulating the passage of nutrients into and out of cells. Lecithin forms one of the major components of this membrane. In addition, lecithin is also a major component in the protective sheaths that surround the brain, muscles, and nerve cells.
Although lecithin is essentially a lipid, it is also partially soluble in water due to its phosphate group. This unique structure of the compound contributes to one of its lecithin benefits, which is to act as an emulsifying agent, making it a convenient ingredient to use in many processed foods.
Lecithin for Health
While there is little doubt that lecithin is indeed a powerful emulsifier, there is more to lecithin benefits than that. For decades, people have been touting that treatment for high cholesterol is one of the many lecithin benefits.
There is little evidence to support this claim, mostly because when the studies conducted were largely unreported. Still, these claims about lecithin benefits on high cholesterol may have something to do with the fact that lecithin, specifically phosphatidylcholine, appears to have the ability to disperse cholesterol in the blood, thus keeping them from sticking to the walls of our arteries. In doing this, lecithin may also help prevent atherosclerosis.
Another one of the lecithin benefits is that it displays potential 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). The claim is based on the significant role that lecithin plays in nerve cell signaling as well as in synthesizing important neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, without which many of our cognitive functions could be impaired.