What is it, why is it, is it for you and how you can make your life better with it?
First found by French chemist Theodore Gobley(1) in 1850, this natural brown fatty substance is found in every living cell of the body. The highest concentrations are found in the brain, heart, liver and kidneys.
Why is it special?
It is a tonic, emulsifier and surfactant all at the same time. It has a very unique property of being able to bind to both fats and water.
Your brain contains approximately 30% lecithin, which is also the main component of nerve tissue, where it promotes growth, development and nerve transmission. It forms the raw material necessary for healthy cell membranes. The choline in lecithin supports brain and memory functioning.
Your blood and cholesterol
Lecithin also works in your blood stream. The surfactant properties prevent cholesterol accumulation on the walls of arteries and dissolve existing deposits. It's ability to attract and hold on to both fatty and water based substances keeps bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and other fats in suspension in the blood stream (2), preventing them from sticking to to vessel walls.
Lecithin is a rich source of choline which is crucial for Liver repair. I also helps in the processing fats, particularly the LDL kind (2), keeping the metabolic processes more active.
Chinese medicine attributes the smooth flow of Qi and blood to the liver. If you have a deficient liver, or on the other end of the scale, a stagnant liver, you will find that your moods and emotions become increasingly uneven. For women, PMT and period pain may also become more pronounced. The health of your liver is important in helping you traverse the more challenging times of your life.
Lecithin is naturally present in both animal-based foods and vegetables. It is also produced by our body in the bile of the liver. Some of the best food sources are:
Should you consider supplements?
Supplementa aren't normally necessary when lecithin is available in so many food sources, however, you do need a varied and balanced diet. Include the suggested sources with a wide variety of healthy foods and you stand a great chance of adequate levels. However, vegetarians, vegans, or those on highly restricted diets and especially showing signs of liver distress should consider supplements.
The problem with lecithin supplements is that the commonly available ones are chemically isolated (4) from genetically modified (GMO) soy beans (5), which are also one of the most genetically modified of all foodstuffs. Sadly, this is not included on the food labels due to heavy lobbying by the industry and government inaction.
If you need to supplement your diet, ensure that any product is certified organic (6) or biodynamic and is from a reputable source.
What type of eggs?
While eggs are the best widely available and abundant source of lecithin, there are a few points to consider. To ensure that no GMO, herbicides and other chemicals are not becoming part of your food chain (via stock feed) ensure the eggs you consume are certified organic or biodynamic (Bullfrog Gully, Willow Zen and others)as the certification bodies ensure ethical practices. If you cannot buy certified biodynamic or organic eggs the next thing is to source truly free range (Organigrow and others) so that their diet is also natural and free from chemicals and dubiously farmed grains. This is tricky as the industry has conspired to allow any producer with up to 10,000 hens fer hectare to label their eggs as "free range". This is far from true free range as that number of chickens will quickly strip the land of natural food sources, bugs and plants, so they will then fall back to rely on supplemental feed which may be from dubiously farmed second grade grains and pellets.
Sunflower sourced Lecithin
Sunflower-sourced lecithin used in supplements is a by-product of the sunflower oil manufacturing process. It is about the only source that does make use of the isolate chemical process and thus no solvents are used. The oil is extracted mechanically by pressing the seeds and as such is raw. I would again advise that you seek an organic or biodynamic source of this supplement to ensure the seeds were pesticide free.
If you are pregnant you should seek your doctors approval before taking this and other supplements or dietary changes.
Should you have concerns about your liver, or are thinking about supplements, please raise this at your next therapy session. I am happy to answer any questions.
(1) Theodore Gobley "Sur la lecithine et la cerebrine"; Journal de Pharmacie et de Chimie 1874,t20, 98-103, 161-166".
(2) Iwata T, Kimura Y, Tsutsumi K, Furukawa Y, Kimura S (February 1993). "The effect of various phospholipids on plasma lipoproteins and liver lipids in hypercholesterolemic rats". J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol. 39 (1): 63Ð71. doi:10.3177/jnsv.39.63
(3) Unisci.com, Why Eggs Don't Contribute Much Cholesterol To Diet. http://www.abc.net.au/sa/stories/s893778.htm
(4) Isolating or an isolate supplement is extracted from the host ingredient chemically using solvents such as toluene, hexane, acetone and benzene and thus contaminated. Keep in mind that toxins no matter how small the quantities can accumulate in the body over decades and lead to sensitivities and other health issues down the line.
(5) Health effects study of Glycosulphate which is the herbicide used by the GMO framework http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416
(6) Organic and BioDynamic certification is done by and BFA in Australia respectively. By USDA is USA. They must bear their respective certifying body trademark on the packaging or their claims may be untrustworthy.