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Lecithin is also known as alpha-phosphatidylcholines, lecithinum ex soya, sojalecithin, or soy lecithin.
Lecithin does not refer to a single chemical but rather to a group of closely related chemicals. Lecithins in turn belong to a larger group of compounds called phospholipids, which are important components of the brain, blood, nervous tissue, and other tissues. The body uses lecithin in the transporting of fats and in the metabolic process. Lecithins consist of a base structure containing choline and a phosphate group called the L-alpha-glycerophosphorylcholine skeleton. A long fatty-acid chain is attached to this skeleton. The length and position of the chain determines the type of lecithin.
People are probably most familiar with lecithin as the oily film on their frying pan when they use a nonstick cooking spray.
Lecithin is available in capsules, liquid, and granules. There is no recommended intake amount.
Foods containing lecithin include egg yolks, soybeans, wheat germ, peanuts, and liver.
Signs of lecithin deficiency are not obvious. Whatever signs and symptoms may be present are thought to be related to choline deficiency.
Choline deficiency in animals may lead to abnormal liver function and kidney damage. Choline-associated liver dysfunction has led to liver cancer in laboratory animals, but a similar link has not been demonstrated in humans.
Lecithin in normal doses may cause stomachache, diarrhea, or loose stools. Information is not yet available concerning excessive lecithin intake.
There are no known contraindications to lecithin.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a physician before taking any dietary supplements.
There are no known significant food or drug interactions.
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