There are multiple spices in the market as well as preservatives and additives advertise from here and there, which some, perhaps, we never heard of before. Including to this, for instance, is the food ingredient soy lecithin.
Soy lecithin is a controversial additive because of the potential health threat it carries that is lacking data to back up. It has many sources, which includes soy. It is used as a lubricant or emulsifier and is an effective flavor protector and antioxidant.
One of the reasons why soy lecithin is added to many dishes is because of its tell-tale capability to reduce cholesterol. In fact, there was a study where animals were treated using it. The report showed that animals reduced LDL cholesterol, which is a bad cholesterol, without the HDL (good cholesterol) to be reported affected. These similar results found in human participants who has 42% reductions in their overall cholesterol; meanwhile, LDL was reduced up to 56%.
However, many of the reviewers of the ingredient believe that it is safe, as only small amounts add in most dishes.
Furthermore, people allergic to soy doesn’t need to worry. Allergens are removed from the soy during the process of making soy lecithin, making it friendly among people who are allergic to soy.
Moreover, soy lecithin is made from GMO or genetically modified soy. But there are already organic products available in the market.
Historical and Scientific Perspective
The term “lecithin” means to designate the various and natural fatty substances in plant and animal tissues.
Soy lecithin is composed of triglycerides, phosphoric acid, phospholipids, glycolipids, glycerol, fatty acids, and choline. It was also first isolated in the mid-19th century by a French chemist name Theodore Gobley.
Originally, soy lecithin is extracted from egg yolk, but modern food science gets it out from milk, cottonseed, soybeans, sunflowers, rapeseed, and marine sources. It is usually used in the form of a liquid but granules lecithin are also available.
Soy lecithin is an important additive among medicine, supplements, and processed foods because of its emulsification properties. Emulsification is what makes the product appearance smooth and uniform.
The phrase “oil is not mixed with water” is general knowledge. But it is not used as a figurative language alone, for science can back it up. If you place water and oil in a container, you can easily identify and point which is oil and which is water even if the two substances are both liquids. If you try to shake the two liquids together, the two substances seem to mix, but once the shaking stops, you’ll notice that oil is separating itself from the water.
Through the emulsification process, oil is broken down into tiny particles making it easy to clean as well as digest when eaten.
Soy Lecithin and its Benefits
An ounce of soy lecithin (which is equal to 28 grams) is composed of the following nutrition:
- 51 mcg of vitamin K
- 214 kcal of calories
- 2.3 mg of vitamin E
- 28 g of fat (11,250 mg of omega-6 fatty acids and 1438 mg omega-3 fatty acids)
- 98 mg of choline
Soy lecithin has phospholipids content in which have two types: phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylcholine. These two are both necessary for biological membranes as it’s what builds the structure of cellular membrane and store energy.
Soy lecithin supplements and capsule form are very popular because of its lipid replacement therapy. The therapy has been revealed to effectively improve metabolic syndrome, degenerative disease, diabetes symptoms, and fatigue through restoring the function and structure of the cell membrane as well as replacing the damaged cell membrane itself.
Furthermore, here are the additive’s potential benefits:
1. Improve Cognitive Function
On one study, phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine properties of soy lecithin have a positive impact toward cognition, mood, and memory among elders and patients with cognitive disorders.
The study has given a mixed of 300 mg phosphatidylserine and 240 mg phosphatidic acid, produced from soy lecithin, to some elderly who have memory problems. After three months of taking the supplement, researchers discovered an improvement in the patients.
2. Assist in Cholesterol Problems
Studies advise that lecithin improves the level of cholesterol. It can decrease the unnecessary amount of LDL cholesterol as well as promote the production of HDL in the liver.
A conducted study published in 2010 took 30 participants. They were asked to take a 500mg supplement every day, and the results were brief as follows:
- Forty-one percent total cholesterol reduction after a month
- Forty-two percent total cholesterol reduction after 2 months
- Forty-two percent LDL reduction after a month
- Fifty-six percent LDL reduction after 2 months.
The results may suggest that soy lecithin supplements can be used for hypercholesterolemia treatment.
3. Reduce some of the Menopause Symptoms
According to some research, supplements can improve vigor and blood pressure levels, resulting to relieve some symptoms in menopausal patients.
4. Bone Enhancer
There is a mixed opinion based on some studies of soy lecithin’s effect on bones, but one study reported that it can prevent osteoporosis because of its bone-enhancing and anti-resorptive properties.
5. Immunity Boosters
Research suggests that an immune system boost among the diabetic rats’ participants which can lead in preventing cancer with the use of soy lecithin supplements. However, there is no evidence to back up the same effect in humans yet.
A Brazilian study found out that soy lecithin can increase macrophage activity (the white blood cells eating foreign substances) by 29% as well as 92% increase in the lymphocyte (fundamental white blood cells to the immune system) with daily supplementation.
6. Choline’s One Best Source
Our body needs nutrient choline for better metabolism, muscle movement, brain development, liver function, and nerve function.
7. Improves Physical and Mental Stress
Soy lecithin has a stress-dampening effect based on a Danish study. The study suggests that it can be used for treating stress-related problems.
The Possible Dangers of Soy Lecithin
Hexane is a solvent used in varnishes and glues. The same solvent is used during the extraction process soybeans. Some believe that there are still left-overs of the substance though it is supposedly removed by another step.
Another issue arises is that products in the markets might be genetically modified soybeans unless it is labeled “organic”.