Lecithin oil is taken as a nutritional supplement to optimize liver function and to help burn fat through raising metabolism, although research in this area is not conclusive. It also can be utilized in skin and body care recipes, such as lotions, cosmetics and cleansers. First named in 1847 by French chemist Maurice Gobley, lecithin is a combination of three phospholipids that can be extracted from egg yolks, dairy products, meats and soybeans. After it has been extracted, lecithin is added to various oils to be used as a nutritional supplement or in many food manufacturing processes as an emulsifier. Lecithin contains choline, which is recognized as being an essential nutrient in the body to prevent the hardening of cell membranes.
Lecithin is a very low density lipid (VLDL) and helps transport fats from the liver to other parts of the body. It works as an emulsifying agent, so it allows fats to become dispersed in water and other liquids in the body. High concentrations of this lipid are located in the brain and the prostate gland, and it makes up a large portion of all cell membranes. Additionally, lecithin oil is thought to help with memory function and absorption of certain vitamins — such as A, D, E and K — into the blood stream.
Studies on lecithin oil as a supplement have been done in the areas of cholesterol management, removal of subcutaneous layers of fat and prolonging the lives of rats with cancer. In these studies, taking a lecithin supplement was found to correlate with a lowering of cholesterol and a reduction in subcutaneous fat. It also correlated to the prolonging of the lives of the cancerous rats.
Lecithin oil is an emulsifier, so it can help bring liquids such as lotions and shampoos together to create a consistent mixture. It also softens and adds moisture to skin, which means that it is often used in beauty products for dry or aging skin. This oil works well in certain culinary settings for non-sticking purposes or to help retain moisture in baked goods, and it can be used as an emulsifier in such things as salad dressings or mayonnaise. Lecithin oil is thought to be more natural and healthy to add to cooking and body care products because it is derived mainly from soybeans, rather than chemicals created to serve the same purpose.