What is Lecithin?
Lecithin is a term used to refer to the amphiphilic group of fatty substances found in plant and animal tissue. Lecithin has both fatty substances and water giving hydrophilic and lipophilic properties. The fatty substances are helpful for food emulsification, cosmetics, smoothing food texture, and medical purpose.
This yellow-brownish fatty substance was first isolated from egg yolk in 1845 by Theodore Gobley, a French pharmacist and chemist. Lecithin can be extracted mechanically from various sources.
What is Lecithin Made From?
Lecithin contains glycerophospholipids like phosphatidylcholine, choline, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylinositol, and phospholipids. Sources of Lecithin include egg yolk, sunflower, soybeans, milk, fish, animal fat, canola seeds, and cotton seeds.
Soy lecithin is an extraction from soybeans. The crude form of soy goes through the degumming process, where gum and oil are separated. Getting soy lecithin from soybeans is, in fact, extremely economical.
Sunflower lecithin is an extract of sunflowers with no solvent required; instead, the process is done naturally by cold pressing. Cold pressing involves dehydrating the sunflowers and separating them into the gum, oil, and solids. The Lecithin separates from the gum.
Sunflower Lecithin vs Soy Lecithin: The Difference
Are there any differences between sunflower lecithin and soy lecithin? Yes! Besides being derivatives of natural plant sources, soy and sunflower lecithin are both similar and different in their own unique ways:
The cold press, which is the extraction of sunflower lecithin, is considered healthier and more natural as no additional solvent is required. The natural process makes the Lecithin healthy and trustable among consumers.
Potential Health Benefits from Lecithin
As lecithin is the oldest natural emulsifying agent known to man, it contains a multitude of compounds that are believed by some medical professionals to provide health benefits through their consumption. Some of these potential benefits include:
Effect on Hormones
Soybeans are a rich source of phytoestrogens meaning they contain a high level of estrogen. Consumption of food products or medication with soy lecithin can cause hormonal imbalance.
The high estrogen level predisposes women to infertility, disruption of endocrine functions, irregular menses, and increased risk of breast cancer and menopausal symptoms. Hence, women are encouraged to use sunflower lecithin instead as it has more minor effects than soy lecithin.
Effect on Cognitive and Neurological Health
According to the studies done, sunflower lecithin contains phospholipids that play a role in improving cognitive functions like memory, perception, learning, decision making, and attention—soy lecithin benefits from lowering blood pressure, boosting immunity, and helping with stress and anxiety.
Sunflower lecithin improves neurological health and lowers the risk of degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Consumption of sunflower lecithin improves movement disorders like dyskinesia over time. Lecithin strengthens the nervous system by protecting the myelin sheath, which helps transmit nerve impulses from the brain and spinal cord to the body.
Sunflower lecithin contains a higher level of phospholipid choline than soy lecithin. Choline plays a part in physiological processes like metabolism and cellular growth, DNA synthesis, and nervous system function like breathing or heart rate.
Choline can help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, swelling, severe headaches. Sunflower lecithin can help countereffect the hormonal imbalance caused by soy lecithin. The deficiency of choline can lead to fatty liver disease, cancer, kidney necrosis, and muscle damage.
Sunflower and soy lecithin contain antioxidant properties, protecting the cells from oxidative damage. Prevention of oxidative damage delays aging and keeps the skin free from wrinkles and fine lines.
Lowering of Cholesterol Levels
Lecithin plays the role of an emulsifier and prevents the separation of fats from or body fluids. Sunflower lecithin helps reduce levels of low-density lipoproteins and promotes the synthesis of high-density lipoproteins. Reduction of cholesterol levels prevents kidney stone formation and promotes liver health. High levels of cholesterol can predispose you to stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. The benefits are better with the use of sunflower lecithin than with soy lecithin.
Breaking down the excess fats lowers the risk of arteriosclerosis which is the thickening of arteries due to excess fat deposition. Intake of sunflower lecithin will unclog your arteries, and that will lower your blood pressure.
Boosting Wound Healing
Sunflower lecithin contains linoleic acid, which helps in the release of cytokines during inflammation. Cytokine is an inflammatory mediator that helps in the wound healing process when applied directly to the wounded. Lecithin can be used on minor cuts, bruises, and lacerations to promote healing and reduce pain and swelling.
Promoting Joint and Bone Health
The oil in the Lecithin helps act as a lubricant to the knee, hip, and elbow joints. The viscous lubricant enables the joints to slide correctly against each other during movement. Athletes are known to use sunflower lecithin when training to improve performance.
Benefit to Nursing Mothers
According to the studies conducted by the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation, consuming sunflower lecithin decreases milk viscosity reducing the recurrence of clogged milk ducts in lactating mothers. The average dose of consumption is 1200mg, distributed four times a day. Consult with your physician before taking the Lecithin to avoid any adverse side effects. Lecithin is not a treatment for mastitis; you will still need to massage, pump and drain the breast as advised by your doctor.
The bottom line is that sunflower lecithin has proven superior to improve your health than soy lecithin. Soy lecithin predisposes the users to hormonal imbalance and allergic reactions. Sunflower lecithin is safer to use as it is a natural extract and not genetically modified. Sunflower lecithin is the healthier choice compared to soy lecithin.
Lecithin and Allergies
Allergic reactions to soy lecithin are common and present with symptoms such as itching, swelling of the face, hives, runny nose, abdominal pains, nausea, diarrhea, swelling of lips, tongue, and throat. People who are allergic to foods should avoid soy lecithin and opt for sunflower lecithin.
What is the Use of Lecithin?
- Lecithin has uses in the pharmacological industry, such as a stabilizing agent, emulsifier, and choline content.
- The lecithin form helps lower cholesterol levels, improve brain function, reduce breastfeeding complications, and improve digestive health.
- Its incorporation in animal feeds helps to boost palatability, increase fat and protein content.
- In the paint industry, Lecithin helps in inhibiting rust and intensifying the paint pigments.
- Lecithin helps improve bowel movement or digestion by preventing diseases like ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
- For its antioxidative properties, Lecithin is vital in the cosmetic industry. Lecithin’s incorporated in creams and skin lotions helps the skin retain moisture. It is essential in the manufacture of anti-aging creams preventing wrinkles and dry skin.
- Diets rich in Lecithin promote memory and brain function. Administration of Lecithin slows the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia-related symptoms.
- Lecithin is essential in breastfeeding as it decreases milk viscosity reducing the chances of clogging in the milk ducts.
- Lecithin is used in baking to help pastries hold together, keep them soft, delicious and increase shelf-life.
- Lecithin is made into supplements for acne, hypertension, arthritis, and improving liver function.
- Adding Lecithin to your diet will improve your sleep patterns and lower stress and anxiety levels.
There are several ways to incorporate Lecithin into your diet, like taking supplements, adding to foods while cooking or baking, and adding to smoothies or shakes. Sunflower and soy lecithin are available in powder, liquid, pills, and granular form. National Lecithin is the place to go when looking for sunflower and soy lecithin. We specialize in sunflower and soybean liquid or powder lecithin, organic, FN grade, and non-GMO products. Call us today at (973) 940-8920 or leave us a message online.