Lecithin. Most people have never heard of it and can not even pronounce it ("less-e-thin"). Those who read food labels recognize it as an additive for thickening or emulsifying fat in a variety of processed foods. They are often surprised to learn that lecithin is a vital nutrient for brain and body.
Lecithin is produced naturally by the liver, and it is commonly consumed in egg yolks, soy beans, or lecithin supplements. Despite its somewhat lengthy history, lecithin seems to have fallen off the mainstream health supplement radar primarily to a dearth of publicly available knowledge and understanding. Yet, even without its lack of notoriety in the mainstream world, lecithin is quickly regaining interest and attention from the greater medical community for its many valuable and diverse health benefits.
Biochemically speaking, lecithin is a mixture of glycolipids, phospholipids and triglycerides. The most predominant of these categories, phospholipids, are regarded as the major component of the membranes that encase every cell in the body. In this respect, lecithin acts to protect cell stability and function. As Steve Zeisel, MD, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill points out, "Without lecithin, nothing would survive, because you would not be able to separate the various compartments within cells, nor would you be able to separate cells from each other. "
The chief nutritional value of lecithin stems from two of its compounds, choline and phosphatidylserine. Phosphatidylserine or PS is considered one of the main building blocks for brain cells and is one of the most vital compounds that affects the production and timely release of chemicals involved in the transmission of messages among brain cells. Parris Kidd, Ph.D., a biomedical consultant in Berkeley, California explains that "PS seems to have a global effect on brain functions. It helps memory, learning and concentration, mood, and daily rhythms. effect on the brain. "
The more familiar compound in lecithin is choline, a precursor of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter related to memory and effective thought processes. Acetylcholine is involved in many of the primary brain functions including controlling memory, heart rate, and more. Notably, acetylcholine has also been observed to be low in people with Alzheimer's disease, leading nutritionists to consider whether maintaining sufficient choline levels could be a solution to preventing or curing the disease.
This potential to help protect and strengthen memory functions is the most notable health benefit of lecithin. Many recent studies have uncoached a link between lecithin and the improvement of verbal and visual memory. One study showed that a single therapeutic dose of lecithin can increase memory performance within just 90 minutes time. As we age, nerve structure typically becomes more susceptible to damage. Lecithin emerges to fight such alterations, allowing certain nerves to better transmit signals as time progresses. In another popular study, investigators gave 61 healthy older adults (aged 50-80 years) either 2 tablespoons of lecithin or a placebo for a total of five weeks. At the conclusion of the study, memory test scores of the lecithin group rose significantly, broadly exceeding those of the placebo group. Additionally, the lecithin group also reported a 48 percent decrease in memory lapses.
However, while its memory-boosting abilities may be powerful, lecithin has also been cited as providing a wide variety of other health benefits. It has been shown to, among others, play a vital role in lower cardiovascular disease risk, stabilizing liver function and health, and even boosting physical performance.
In terms of its cardiovascular effects, several studies have shown that lecithin had sizeable effects on lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These results are indicative of lecithin's antioxidant properties and its ability to contribute cholesterol-lowering polyunsaturated fats, increase intestinal cholesterol absorption, and positively affect lipoprotein profiles. It has also been proven to help those individuals taking niacin or nicotinic acid to treat their high cholesterol. Niacin treatments deplete a patient's choline levels, which in turn brings on the necessity for the additional choline found in lecithin to be augmented to the diet.
Lecithin benefits the liver in several ways. As previously described, lecithin's prevalence in cell membranes and structure helps prevent liver cell damage. Furthermore, it has been shown to protect against the accumulation of fat around the liver. Without lecithin present to help the enzymes mix with and digest surrounding waste, the liver begins to gather excess fat and extremely runs the risk of severe damage and death if untreated. Gallstones are also more likely to form if without the necessary lecithin, because lecithin deficient proteins in bile separate at more than optimum levels.
Lecithin has been shown to boost athletic performance. When tested, long distance runners, swimmers, and triathletes all displayed a drop in plasma choline as they progressed through their workout, limiting their ability to perform at their best physically. Choline and lecithin have thus been linked to limiting fatigue like symptoms. With an increased rate of nerve communication and stability, lecithin has the potential to give athletes a boost in overall performance and stamina.
Even with all these potential benefits, some skeptics still question the true value of choline and lecithin, as they argue that memory issues are too complex to draw any comprehensive tests. However, as two of the most predominant investigators, Dr. Florence Stafford of Florida International University and Dr. Barry Baumel of the Neuromedical Centers of South Florida, described, "The cost of lecithin is so low, the negative side effects so minimal, and the potential benefits so positive, that we would recommend trying the use of lecithin granules as food supplements for all people experiencing memory problems. " With t and an increase of public awareness, the global community will take finally begin to take notice of the many exciting benefits lecithin can offer.