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What is Soya Lecithin?

By Kaitlyn N. Watkins
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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Soya lecithin is a compound made from soybean oil and is found in many commercially produced foods and dietary supplements. There are a few known mild side effects to using soya lecithin, but overall health reports are positive. Some scientists believe that soya lecithin contains nutrients that can help the body improve cardiovascular health, athletic performance, liver function, and fetal development. A doctor should always be consulted before using introducing supplements into the diet, even though the herbal supplements containing soya lecithin can be found over the counter. In the US, soya lecithin has not been tested and is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safety.

Lecithin is an essential fat that can be found naturally in egg yolks and soybeans. Commercially, lecithin is extracted from refined soybean oil and used as an emulsifier and stabilizer in a number of products, such as candy bars, baking mixes, and batter for fried foods, to keep fats from separating. Soy lecithin is a compound made up of three different phospholipids and contains the nutrient choline, which is a main component of cell membranes in the body. Choline keeps cell membranes from hardening, making it possible for nutrients to enter and exit cells.

Proponents of soya lecithin claim that this cellular function also helps the body prevent cholesterol and other fatty buildup from forming deposits in the arteries, which is important for efficient cardiovascular function. This connection with breaking up fats leads to the claim that soya lecithin supplements can aid in weight loss. Soya lecithin also has been credited with helping the blood flow more efficiently through the vascular system because it makes it less “sticky.” There have also been claims that the choline in soya lecithin can be beneficial in preventing memory loss and improving liver function; these claims are based on the fact that lecithin is converted into acetylcholine by the body, which is used to transmit nerve impulses, but this has not been evaluated formally.

There have been concerns that soy lecithin can be dangerous for people with sensitivity to soy or who are allergic to soy. Allergic reactions can include difficulty breathing, hives, and swelling of the face, tongue, and lips. The data on the allergenic properties of soy lecithin is limited, however, and soy supporters insist that the allergenic proteins in commercially processed foods are either processed out or used in amounts too small to pose a threat. Other side effects have been reported from large amounts of soy lecithin use, including mild dizziness or fainting and low blood pressure.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Nov 10, 2013

Has anyone noticed that many processed foods contain soya lecithin?

I first saw it listed as an ingredient in my crackers and cookies, and today, I saw it in the ingredients list of my powdered coffee creamer. It seems to be a very popular food ingredient. If lecithin really has benefits, then that's great.

By bluedolphin — On Nov 10, 2013

@ZipLine-- I don't think that you need to worry about soya lecithin coming from genetically modified soybeans. Even if this is the case, soya lecithin has very little soybean in it, if any. Soybeans go through a refinement process to extract the lecithin. So I highly doubt that you're going to experience negative lecithin side effects.

Having said that, I don't that soya lecithin helps with weight loss. I know that many people have tried it and some claim that it works. But there have been scientific studies done and none of them have showed that there is a connection between soya lecithin and weight loss.

If you still want to try it, there is no harm. It might help reduce your cholesterol and lecithin is said to be good for the liver too. Just don't raise your expectations and make sure to take a quality supplement at the recommended dose.

By ZipLine — On Nov 09, 2013

I've been wanting to try lecithin supplements for weight loss for a while now. I know that soya lecithin has benefits for overweight people and people with high cholesterol. My friend recommended soya lecithin. He said that soya lecithin is more effective than egg lecithin and tastes better too.

The only issue is that I've been avoiding soy products since I found out that most soy is genetically modified. Are there soy lecithin supplements that are made from non genetically modified soya? Would I even be able to tell the difference?

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