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what is lecithin?

7 doctor answers12 doctors weighed in
Dr. Douglas Tzanetos
Allergy and Immunology 19 years experience
A fatty substance: Lecithin is a non-toxic fatty substance containing lipid (fat) and phosphorous and is a common food additive. It has a wide variety of uses in the pharmaceutical, paint, plastics, and food industries. It is an emulsifier (allows two substances to remain mixed without separating) and lubricant. Some studies suggest it may lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, but these are mixed.
Dr. Alan Greene
Dr. Alan Greene answered
Pediatrics 34 years experience
Milk duct remedy: First discovered in egg yolks, lecithin is a slippery substance that lets oil and water mix. It's found in lots of foods. And it's added to foods (for example, to keep the cocoa powder and cocoa butter together in chocolate) and used in cooking sprays. It's also available as a supplement, often recommended for clogged milk ducts. Some swear by it. Not clear how well it works, but clear it is safe.
Dr. Salil Gupta
Pediatrics 35 years experience
A natural fat : Lecithin is a type of fat found in all plants and animals including humans. It is an important part of cell membrane. It has lubricant and soap like or "surfactant" properties. Many food companies use it for dietary supplement purposes or in food preparation. There are no side effects of taking these supplement but benefits are only in few select cases.
Dr. Marcus Degraw
Pediatrics 22 years experience
Plant substance: Essentially it is a collection of phospohlipids and plant material, usually from something like soy. It is used in lots of foods and food preparation and can be used a a supplement. Most lecithin is derived from soy beans. Its use has been shown to possibly reduce cholesterol and maybe help with things like clogged milk ducts, but studies arent completely conclusive. Its very safe thoughto use.
Dr. Pamela Lindor
Pediatrics 32 years experience
Lipid supplement: Lecithin is a fatty substance found in all living cells, sold as a supplement. Good natural sources are egg yolk, soybeans, grains, wheat germ, fish, legumes, yeast, and peanuts. Although claimed to help with weight loss and other medical problems, there is little scientific evidence to support this. Ask you doctor before taking any supplement.
Dr. Lawrence Rosen
Pediatrics 28 years experience
Usually from soy: Typically extracted from soy - and to be avoided if soy allergic - lecithin, according to wikipedia, refers to "a group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues, and in egg yolk, composed of phosphoric acid, choline, fatty acids, glycerol, glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipids (e.g., phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and phosphatidylinositol).".
Dr. Robert Kwok
Pediatrics 33 years experience
A food additive: Lecithin is a substance found in plants and animals. When used as a food additive, lecithin is usually from soybeans. It is an emulsifier when added to foods, which means lecithin helps prevent oils from separating from the non-fat ingredients in processed foods.

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Sioux City, IA
A 54-year-old male asked:

Is it good to take lecithin?

1 doctor answer1 doctor weighed in
Dr. Ed Friedlander
Pathology 44 years experience
Can't recommend it: This is widely promoted for mental illness, multiple sclerosis ("myelin contains lecithin"), and gallstones (which lecithin might help solubilize if you could get it into the bile; no recent papers). I ran a nih database search and was sorry to find no experiments or rationale for the brain-health claims. Ask your physician about other complementary medicines that might be right for you.
Tampa, FL
A 33-year-old male asked:

Is sunflower lecithin safe and effective?

1 doctor answer2 doctors weighed in
Dr. Mark Fisher
Neurology 34 years experience
Effective?: Effective for what?
Brockton, MA
A 30-year-old male asked:

What is Lecithin and does it have health benefits?

1 doctor answer2 doctors weighed in
Dr. Stephen Southard
Internal Medicine 15 years experience
It is a fat: It is used for many purposes including those outside of medicine. It is used as a food additives to make sure ingredients stay mixed. It is used as a skin moisturizer. Health-wise it is used to address fat accumulation in the liver, memory issues such as in the case of various dementias, high cholesterol and skin issues. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of research in regards to its effectiveness

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