LECITHIN AND HEALTH*
Lecithin has been shown to aid in maintaining and achieving:
At his NOHA lecture, April 12, 2000, Frank T. Orthoefer, PhD, told us many ways in which lecithin can help in our pursuit of optimal health.
"Lecithin is active in preventing vascular disease."
Lecithin is one name for a whole group of natural molecules that are found in the membranes of the cells of all living organisms, plants as well as animals. The word "lecithin" comes from the Greek word for egg yolk, where it was first discovered. Egg yolk is an excellent source of the nutrient. It is also especially high in organ meats, moderately high in red meat, and can be found in whole nuts and seeds. If these foods are avoided, we can be low in this vital nutrient.
The form of the lecithin molecules protects the fatty acids. Dr. Orthoefer points out that lecithin granules can be stored without refrigeration for lengthy periods, whereas pure oils containing the unsaturated fatty acids can turn rancid very rapidly.
Lecithin has a number of other names, including phospholipid, because it combines phosphorus with fats (lipids). It is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, which are a part of each molecule and which are protected from oxidation by the actual form, which is both fat loving for the fatty acids (lipophilic) and water loving (hydrophilic) on account of the phosphorus (phosphate). As we know, the essential fatty acids (omega 6s and omega 3s) are polyunsaturated and are extremely vulnerable to oxidation, which degrades them and turns them rancid, so that instead of being essential nutrients they become harmful to our metabolism. The form of the lecithin molecules protects the fatty acids. Dr. Orthoefer points out that lecithin granules can be stored without refrigeration for lengthy periods, whereas pure oils containing the unsaturated fatty acids can turn rancid very rapidly. On account of this characteristic, lecithin can be said to work synergistically with vitamin E, which is, as we know, a superb anti-oxidant for oily nutrients.
Lecithin has a number of other names, including phospholipid, because it combines phosphorus with fats (lipids). It is an excellent source of essential fatty acids . . .
The phospholipids are a whole class of compounds. Some of the molecules will contain the amino acid choline, or sometimes the sugar alcohol, inositol, or the amino acid serine, as important examples.
"Lecithin is active in preventing vascular disease. Physiologically, lecithin:
1. Prevents vascular diseases associated with fatty deposits.
2. Prevents degenerative arterial diseases.
3. Helps improve the elasticity of blood vessels.
4. Prevents cholesterol from depositing in arterial walls."
Lecithin needs to be in balance with cholesterol and is active in cholesterol transport. Lecithin is also essential for maintaining liver health and is essential for transporting triglycerides out of the liver—preventing fatty liver. "Animals fed high alcohol diets develop liver cirrhosis without lecithin, but with lecithin supplementation to the animal diet, cirrhosis does not occur."
Lecithin is also essential for maintaining liver health . . .
Memory and Mental Acuity
Lecithin is one of the special chemicals that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. "It is believed that lecithin permeability is necessary for the metabolic processes that occur in all cells but also for the constant regeneration of the phospholipid-rich membranes of the brain." The choline-containing phospholipid is an abundant form of lecithin and vitally important for the biosynthesis of the important neurotransmitter acetylcholine, malfunctions of which are involved in:
Interestingly, it has been found in the treatment of these diseases that
Lecithin needs to be in balance with cholesterol and is active in cholesterol transport.
The amino acid serine is usually an exceedingly minor constituent of commercial lecithin. Phosphatidylserine is its chemical name. It is "ubiquitous (present everywhere) in cell membranes and essential to the function of all cells in the body. It is particularly concentrated in the brain and tissues involved in an assortment of nerve functions including nerve transmitter release and synaptic activity." On account of "mad cow disease," we no longer want extracts from cow’s brains. Now, a concentrated and expensive extract can be produced from soy lecithin. "Phosphotidylserine is perhaps the most promising brain nutrient discovery in recent years. It is a useful dietary tool for metabolic support of memory, learning, and behavior."
During endurance exercise, glucose for energy plus mineral electrolytes are all depleted and thus needed. However, in addition, acetylcholine is needed to carry signals to muscle fibers and "intense exercise of long duration can and does lower plasma choline levels." Thus, lecithin, containing choline, can help to enhance long-distance endurance.
"Lecithin also plays a role in male fertility. Test tube studies have shown that lecithin has the ability to restore normal structure and movement to abnormal sperm cells and nearly double the acrosomal response."
Reproduction and Fertility
Lecithin, as a phospholipid, which often contains choline, can be involved in the availability of platelet activating factor (PAF), itself a choline phospholipid, in other words, a constituent of the class of compounds that we call "lecithin." PAF is involved in reproduction in "three ways: 1) in implanting of the egg in the uterine wall, 2) in fetal maturation and 3) in inducing of labor."
"Lecithin also plays a role in male fertility. Test tube studies have shown that lecithin has the ability to restore normal structure and movement to abnormal sperm cells and nearly double the acrosomal response." The acrosome is "the caplike, membrane-bound structure covering the anterior portion of the head of a spermatozoon; it contains enzymes involved in penetration of the ovum."
. . . the constituents of lecithin are essential for the normal development, especially of the brain and mental capacities, of the human fetus.
As we can imagine, the constituents of lecithin are essential for the normal development, especially of the brain and mental capacities, of the human fetus.
*Orthoefer, Frank, PhD, Lecithin and Health: Brain Nutrients—Phosphatidyl Choline and Serine, Vital Health Publishing, P. O. Box 544, Bloomingdale, IL 60108, 1998.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XXVI, No. 2, Spring 2001, pages 8-9.