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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).".
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.