Lecithin is an essential fat that has beaucoup health benefits. You can find it naturally in some foods, but lots of folks take it as a supplement.

Here’s the science scoop, plus ways to add it to your diet.

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Not all lecithin is the same. Here are the most popular varieties.

Soy lecithin

Soy lecithin comes from (you guessed it) soybeans. It’s a popular additive in:

  • dairy products
  • infant formulas
  • margarine
  • breads
  • fast food

You can also find it in a lot of skin products.

PSA: Some folks don’t dig the way manufacturers make soy lecithin. About 94 percent of U.S.-grown soy is genetically modified. You might have to shop around a while to find a non-GMO brand.

Sunflower lecithin

Sunflower lecithin is made from dehydrated sunflowers 🌻. It’s not as common as soy lecithin, but some peeps prefer it. It might be a better choice if you want to avoid GMOs.

Another bonus is that you can buy it as a powder or liquid.

Lecithin granules

Lecithin granules are usually made from soy. It has a tender texture and a mild nutty flavor. Pro tip: Sneak some into homemade bread or sprinkle it on salads.

Here’s a deep dive into lecithin’s top proven benefits.

Reduces cholesterol

Lecithin has a pretty powerful impact on cholesterol.

In a 2010 study, participants took a 500 milligram lecithin supplement on the daily for 2 months. It reduced total cholesterol levels by 42 percent and LDL levels by 56.15 percent. Woop!

Supports immune function

Soy lecithin might bolster your immune system, especially if you have diabetes. One study found that daily lecithin supplements increased lymphocytes (natural killer cells) in diabetic rats by 92 percent.

It also increased macrophage activity by 29 percent in nondiabetic rats. (Macrophages are white blood cells that fight cancer cells, microbes, and debris.)

Digestive aid for IBD

Lecithin might ease inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms. The fat contains phosphatidylcholine (PC), which helps protect the colon from inflammation and bacteria.

A small 2010 study found that lecithin supplements reduced bowel inflammation in folks with ulcerative colitis by 50 percent.

Lecithin might also help with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but more research is needed.

Breastfeeding

Got milk? Breastfeeding is totes natural, but it can be uber uncomfortable.

Lecithin might make things easier. However, research shows that while doctors have recommended the supplement as a treatment for plugged milk ducts, no high-quality evidence confirms that this is the case.

The Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation recommends a daily lecithin dose of 1,200 milligrams 4 times a day. But, you should check with your bébé doctor before switching up your diet or supplements while nursing.

Keep in mind, lecithin won’t help if you already have a clogged milk duct.

To treat a clogged duct:

  • massage your ta-tas
  • apply a warm compress
  • drain the boob well after each feeding
  • chat with a lactation specialist for personalized tips

Other uses that need more research

Some folks claim lecithin can help with:

  • anxiety
  • liver disease
  • gallbladder disease
  • dry skin conditions like eczema or dermatitis
  • cognitive function

Just keep in mind, there’s little to no research to back up these claims.

There is no daily recommendation for lecithin intake. Lecithin shouldn’t cause any adverse reactions. But there are some things to consider.

Overall safety

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), lecithin is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).

But supplements can get a bit risky. The FDA doesn’t monitor them for purity or safety in the same way as medications. So if you do choose a supplement, stick to the good stuff.

Possible adverse reaction

A lot of lecithin supplements contain egg or soy. If you have an allergy, be sure to check the label.

According to an earlier study, possible side effects include:

  • stomach problems
  • sweating
  • excessive salivation
  • anorexia

Heart risks

Talk to your doctor before taking lecithin if you have a history of heart disease. Some research on animals claims lecithin can increase your risk of heart attack or atherosclerosis (the hardening of arteries).

Lecithin has some pretty potent health perks.

It might help ease digestive issues and may lower your cholesterol levels. The fat could also improve brain function and make breastfeeding easier. However, the studies we found don’t confirm that lecithin provides any definite benefits. More research is necessary.

You can get lecithin from food, but it can also be as a supplement. While it’s generally considered safe by the FDA, def check with your doctor before adding a supplement to your routine.