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Lecithin and Cholesterol

You might not like it if I told you that fats or lipids are essential components of our body. But it is the truth, whether you like it or not. Every one of our billions of cells contains fats in some form or another.

 Research indicates that a diet rich in lecithin may increase good HDL cholesterol and lower bad LDL cholesterol.

If you like cooking or spend a heck of a lot of time in the kitchen, you probably know that the oils we use for cooking are hard to dissolve and typically change from liquid into a solid state under certain conditions such as a drop in temperature. If you want an example, then just place butter in the fridge and see what happens.

Now, this tendency of fats to transform according to changes in temperature may pose a problem for us if every single one of our cells contains fats. But fortunately for us, the fats within and outside of our cells are kept under pretty much stable conditions. The compound responsible for this is lecithin.

Lecithin is an emulsifier naturally occurring in various foods, including egg yolks, soybeans, sunflower, grape seed, wheat germ, flour, etc. It is technically a phospholipid that is present in every living cell in both the plant and animal kingdoms.

Now, as a phospholipid, the compound is closely related with triglycerides, and in fact, one of its chemical components is triglycerides, but whereas triglycerides have three fatty acids, lecithin only has two, plus a phosphate and choline group. As a result, the other name for lecithin is phosphatidylcholine.

One of the various functions of lecithin is to keep cholesterol in line. Its ability to emulsify oils and hold them in solution plays a major role in preventing gall stone formation. Together with bile and bile salts, it comprises the three major constituents of bile. Bile is mostly made up of fats, which lecithin keeps in liquid form in order to prevent gall stones from forming. On the other hand, cholesterol holds a delicate balance with the bile salts. If the balance is tipped on either side, the result could stone formation. By keeping cholesterol in check, lecithin helps prevent stone formation.

As a component of the enzyme lecithin cholesterol acyltranferase, the compound is said to help in the metabolism of cholesterol to its by products. As mentioned earlier, this substance is also called phosphatidylcholine and is an excellent source of choline. Much of the medical benefits of lecithin, particularly on high cholesterol-related conditions have been attributed to the presence of choline.

In one study, laboratory rats were given a choline free diet. By the end of the study, all of the test subjects developed liver diseases, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. Other studies, conducted on both humans and animals, also showed how choline supplementation help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. Though the study results showed only slight reduction of cholesterol, it was enough proof for many drug manufacturers to market the substance as a supplement that could aid in weight loss.

Today, commercial lecithin as a supplement for persons with high cholesterol is available in pellet or granule form. It can also be taken in as a pill or powder.

Try some lecithin and see what it can do for you!

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