Lecithin not only strengthens the nerves. The fat-like substance contained in nuts, for example, can do even more: it stabilizes the body’s own cells and prevents diseases. Dietary supplements are useful in a few cases.
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What is lecithin and what is it good for?
Lecithins (phosphatidylcholines) are fat-like substances (so-called phospholipids) from which the body can release unsaturated fatty acids and choline.
Nutrition experts attribute the positive effects of lecithin on the body primarily to its constituent choline. The substance primarily supports fat burning and is said to have positive effects on cognitive function, especially memory, by improving signal transmission between the brain cells.
Lecithins take on important functions in the body:
Lecithins are involved in lipid metabolism: Their job is to distribute and break down the fats that have been taken in from food.
As part of the cell membrane, lecithins stabilize the body’s cells.
The active ingredient strengthens brain and nerve cells: It should help in stressful situations, with performance pressure, nervous strain and concentration disorders and serve to increase performance.
It is also part of the mucous layer of the intestines and lungs.
Lecithin enables cholesterol to be transported through blood vessels. This removes excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and thus lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It has also been scientifically proven that lecithin has positive effects on patients with liver diseases such as alcoholic fatty liver and hepatitis.
The supportive effect in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammation of the colon, is also considered to be certain.
Healthy effect: important for the brain and nerves
As a component of the nerve cell membranes in the brain, lecithin has a direct influence on the functionality of the gray cells. The active ingredient isolates the nerve processes and thus ensures the flawless transmission of nerve impulses. Lecithin is also converted into acetylcholine, the most important neurotransmitter in the nervous system. If the nerve cell does not have enough lecithin available, it can lead to a decline in cognitive performance, reaction speed and memory. However, according to numerous studies, an adequate supply of lecithin does not only pay off for the gray cells.
In which foods is lecithin found?
The choline contained in lecithin in particular plays an important role from a nutritional point of view. The United States National Academy of Science (NAS) recommends:
- for men a daily intake of 550 milligrams of choline
- for women 425 milligrams
For comparison: an egg contains around 250 to 300 milligrams of choline, 100 grams of wheat germ provide around 150 milligrams and 100 grams of beef liver provides 420 milligrams.
Lecithin and its constituent choline are found in:
Lecithin as a dietary supplement?
Lecithin supplements are marketed as health products during intense physical or mental stress, during stressful phases, for better memory performance or during pregnancy. The lecithin used in pills, powders, ampoules and granules is of vegetable origin and is obtained from soybeans.
The nutritional benefit of dietary supplements with lecithin in metabolically healthy people has not been proven. Normally, the daily requirement is met by a balanced diet and the body’s own production.
However, there are indications that dietary supplements can be useful in old age: A German study on subjects aged 55 and over with impaired cognitive function showed improvements in some brain performance tests when adding lecithin compared with the group who had taken placebo preparations .
Emulsifier E322: lecithin as an additive in food
Lecithins are E322 as a food additive in the European Union approved, it is shown in lists of ingredients as lecithin, soy lecithin or E322. In many foods such as margarine, cakes, biscuits or chocolate, it is added because of its effect as an antioxidant and stabilizer.
But its emulsifying effect is particularly interesting in food production: lecithins make it possible to mix liquids that actually cannot form a uniform bond, for example water and fat. That is why they are also called natural emulsifiers or surfactants designated. For example, when making mayonnaise, water has to combine with oil. Emulsifiers are also useful in the cosmetics industry, for example in the manufacture of shampoo.
The German Nutrition Society (DGE) is skeptical that lecithin is being added to more and more foods. According to a company nutrition report, the increasingly random use of nutrients as an additive would make the differences between dietary supplements and fortified foods smaller and smaller. It is assumed that it is not the nutritional benefit, but more and more often a marketing image or inexpensive nutrient mixtures that determine the enrichment practice. So far there have only been maximum quantity restrictions for E322 for baby food.
Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by www.lifeline.de.
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