Lecithin

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What other names is Lecithin known by?

Egg Lecithin, Lécithine, Lécithine d'œuf, Lécithine de Graine de Soya, Lécithine de Soya, Lecitina, Ovolecithin, Ovolécithine, Phospholipide de Soja, Phospholipide de Soya, Phospholipides de Soya, Soy Lecithin, Soy Phospholipid, Soy Phospholipids, Soya Bean Lecithin, Soya Lecithin, Soybean Lecithin, Vegilecithin, Vitellin, Vitelline.

What is Lecithin?

Lecithin is a fat that is essential in the cells of the body. It can be found in many foods, including soybeans and egg yolks. Lecithin is taken as a medicine. It is also used in the manufacturing of medicines, foods, and cosmetics.

Lecithin is used for reducing fatty build-up in the liver and treating memory disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It is used to improve memory in the elderly or in people who have had a head injury. It is also used for decreasing pain after surgery, treating gallbladder disease, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis), a nerve disease called Friedreich's ataxia, nipple blebs/blisters, mania, high cholesterol, anxiety, a skin disease called eczema, Parkinson's disease, and for improving athletic performance. It is also used in people receiving peritoneal dialysis. In combination with lithium, lecithin is used for a movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia.

Some people apply lecithin to the skin as a moisturizer to treat dry skin or dermatitis.

You will often see lecithin as a food additive. It is used to keep certain ingredients from separating out.

Lecithin is also used in preparations for intravenous (IV) or skin injections. It is used to stabilize and prevent medicines in the preparation from separating out.

You may also see lecithin as an ingredient in some eye medicines. It is used to help keep the medicine in contact with the eye's cornea.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Liver disease. Taking lecithin seems to reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver of people who are fed long-term through a needle in the vein (parenteral nutrition).

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Age-related memory impairment. Taking lecithin alone or with physostigmine does not seem to improve memory in healthy, older adults.
  • Gallbladder disease. Taking lecithin does not seem to improve gallbladder disease.

Likely Ineffective for...

Ineffective for...

  • Dementia related to Alzheimer's disease or other causes. Taking lecithin alone or with tacrine or ergoloids does not seem to improve mental abilities in people with dementia. It also doesn't seem to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Athletic performance. Early research shows that taking lecithin by mouth does not improve athletic performance in trained athletes.
  • A nerve disease called Friedreich's ataxia. Early research shows that lecithin does not improve performance in people with Friedreich's ataxia.
  • Fatty build-up in the liver. Early research shows that lecithin might reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver of people who are fed long-term through a needle in the vein (parenteral nutrition).
  • High cholesterol. Early research shows that lecithin decreases cholesterol in healthy people. However, other research shows that lecithin does not lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol.
  • Mania. Early research shows that taking lecithin improves symptoms of delusions, jumbled speech, and hallucinations in people with mania.
  • Parkinson's disease. Early research shows that taking lecithin by mouth does not improve symptoms in people with Parkinson's disease.
  • Surgery. Early research shows that taking lecithin by mouth before surgery does not reduce pain after surgery.
  • Movement disorders (tardive dyskinesia). Early research shows that taking lecithin by mouth, alone or in combination with lithium, does not appear to improve symptoms in people with tardive dyskinesia when used for 2 months.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). Early research shows that taking a supplement called Profermin (Nordisk Rebalance, Denmark) 250 mL twice daily for 8-24 weeks improves symptoms in some people with ulcerative colitis. Profermin contains fermented oats, barley malt, lecithin, and Lactobacillus plantarum 299v.
  • Anxiety.
  • Dermatitis.
  • Dry skin.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate lecithin for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Lecithin work?

Lecithin is converted into acetylcholine, a substance that transmits nerve impulses.

Are there safety concerns?

Lecithin is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth, applied to the skin, or injected intravenously (by IV) or under the skin. It can cause some side effects including diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, or fullness. Lecithin might also cause allergic skin reactions in people with allergies to egg or soy.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of lecithin during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Egg or soy allergy: Lecithin might cause allergic skin reactions in people with egg and/or soy allergies.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Diclofenac (Voltaren Gel)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

The absorption of topical diclofenac is increased when combined with lecithin.

Dosing considerations for Lecithin.

The appropriate dose of lecithin depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for lecithin. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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