What is Lecithin?
Lecithin is a term given to describe a variety of yellowish or brown fatty substances which naturally occur in a variety of animals and plants. Lecithin was originally isolated from egg yolk.
Lecithin has become a popular supplement especially with regard to improving cholesterol levels as well as improving the functions of the nervous and circulatory systems. Soy and sunflower lecithin are two very popular formulations although they are slightly different from one another.
Lecithin is a vital component to each and every cell in our bodies. Lecithin helps prevent the cell membranes from becoming hard and allows them to remain healthy. It does not take a medical expert to tell you that healthy cells mean a healthy body.
Lecithin and other phospholipids are produced naturally in many of the body’s major organs including the heart, liver and kidneys. If you want to boost your lecithin levels however, you might well need to take a supplement.
As well as the heart health benefits of lecithin, there is also some evidence that it can help restore liver health and function and may be able to reverse the damaging effects of alcohol abuse. There are also promising indications that it can help improve cognitive functions like memory and learning.
The differences between sunflower lecithin and soy lecithin
Soy and sunflower lecithin are two of the most popular lecithin supplements. Sunflower lecithin is the more expensive option because of the differences in production costs and yield. There are however definite advantages that sunflower lecithin has over soy lecithin.
- One of the main advantages is the extraction process; sunflower lecithin gets extracted without the need for potentially damaging chemical solvents such as acetone and hexane.
- Sunflower lecithin is also processed through a cold press system like the one used to derive olive oil and similar products.
- It is the only lecithin which is obtainable both chemical-free and raw.
- Sunflower lecithin is rich in choline and other essential fatty acids such as phosphatidylinositol.
- Soy lecithin is derived by using dangerous chemicals like hexane.
- Some people may develop soy allergies.
- Soy is often genetically engineered.
- There are concerns of elevated estrogen levels by consuming soy and soy lecithin.
Sunflower Lecithin Benefits
1. Heart health and cholesterol
Lecithin is especially good for the health of your heart. It can help both prevent and reverse damage from coronary disease. Lecithin is essentially a fat emulsifier which the body can use to rid the excess fats from your bloodstream.
These excess fats include cholesterol and triglycerides meaning that it will help you to reduce and control your cholesterol levels. This task is accomplished largely because of the linoleic acid contained in high concentrations in sunflower lecithin. Only olive oil can boast similar levels of linoleic acid while soy lecithin has very little of it.
Sunflower lecithin supplementation improves blood circulation which can help prevent blood clots and other complaints.
2. Brain Health
Sunflower lecithin can do wonders for your neurological and cognitive health. This is because it is chock full of essential phospholipids with incredibly long chemical names.
Phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylinositol and phosphatidylethanolamine are all important ingredients which are utilized by the body to repair, strengthen and produce brain cells and also nerve cells. There are promising reports that sunflower lecithin can improve cognitive functions like study, focus and memory.
Good memory and recall ability is an important sign of a strong brain. It is also possible that sunflower lecithin can help with a variety of degenerative brain conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
3. For the liver
The phospholipids mentioned above also play a very important role when it comes to the health of your liver. The liver is prone to becoming over burdened with excessive fats, these fats or lipids can then accumulate within the liver instead of being excreted from the body via the bowels as they should be.
This is a condition called (non-alcoholic) fatty liver disease which is an increasingly common complaint that in turn leads to more serious conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cirrhosis and possibly liver cancer. Because of its phospholipid content, sunflower lecithin can help prevent this excessive build-up of fats and keep the liver in good working condition.
4. Antioxidant ability
I am sure that the majority of us are aware by now of the importance of antioxidants to our health. Sunflower lecithin can provide you with one of the most powerful of those antioxidants in the form of phosphatidylcholine.
Getting enough antioxidants into your diet is vital to prevent cellular damage caused by oxidative stress. Cellular damage can lead to a host of sicknesses such as heart disease and cancer and can also cause you to age prematurely both internally and externally.
5. Blood pressure
As we have already mentioned, the linoleic acid contained in sunflower lecithin works by breaking down excess fats that accumulate in the body including cholesterol and triglycerides. When cholesterol and triglyceride levels are elevated too much, they can accumulate on the arterial walls causing a condition known as arteriosclerosis. This is basically a thickening of the arteries which is likely to lead to higher blood pressure and further to heart attack or stroke.
6. Nervous system
Sunflower lecithin can help the nervous system to function more efficiently because of its abundant fatty acids. These fatty acids boost the strength of nerve tissue and actually improve neurotransmitter activity.
Your nerve fibers consist of a complex network of sheaths which allow nerve impulses to effectively travel from one place to another. Unfortunately, the nerve system can be disrupted but sunflower lecithin can help keep these nerve functions healthy.
7. Wound healing
Because of its linoleic acid and other important fatty acids, it is possible for sunflower lecithin to speed up the release of cytokines or inflammatory transmitters to wounded areas of the body. You can actually apply sunflower lecithin directly to any minor wounds for immediate effect.
If you suffer from arthritis or any other form of joint pain, supplementing with sunflower lecithin can have a very positive impact. Lecithin actually helps lubricate your joints throughout your body.
A deficiency in lecithin can actually cause your joints to stiffen up and cause rheumatism in the long term. Lecithin supplementation can help prevent joint disease and also ease the symptoms of any pre-existing conditions.
9. Free of estrogen
While this is not an actual health benefit per se, it is worth noting that unlike soy lecithin, sunflower lecithin is free of the phytoestrogens contained in soy lecithin. Phyoestrogens can cause people of both sexes to produce excess estrogen leading to numerous metabolic issues such as early menopause, breast growth, sexual dysfunction and weight gain. It can also cause autoimmune disorder to the adrenal glands and thyroid.
For the best body and brain benefits, men require a minimum of 600 mg of lecithin daily while women require a minimum of 500 mg a day. Consuming much more is not believed to be dangerous in any way and can actually have many short term and long term benefits on the body and the mind.
For the maximum amount of benefits, both sexes are recommended to consume as much as 1200 mgs each day. There are a number of potential benefits to supplementing your diet with sunflower lecithin. If you are still interested then read on to find out exactly what it can do for your body and your mind.