Lecithin In Cannabis Edibles: Why You Need It?
Lecithin is a fat that is essential in the cells of the body. It can be found in many foods, including soybeans and egg yolks. Lecithin is taken as a medicine and is also used in the manufacturing of medicines.
Lecithin is used for treating memory disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also used for treating gallbladder disease, liver disease, certain types of depression, high cholesterol, anxiety, and a skin disease called eczema.
Some people apply lecithin to the skin as a moisturizer.
You will often see lecithin as a food additive. It is used to keep certain ingredients from separating out.
You may also see lecithin as an ingredient in some eye medicines. It is used to help keep the medicine in contact with the eye’s cornea.
How does it work?
Lecithin is converted into acetylcholine, a substance that transmits nerve impulses.
Lecithin supplements are usually derived from sunflower seeds, eggs, or soybeans. Soy is by far the ingredient most commonly used to create lecithin supplements. Animal fats, fish, and corn are also sometimes used.
While soybean lecithin tends to come in granulated capsule form, you can buy sunflower lecithin in both powder and liquid form, too. Sunflower lecithin isn’t as common, but some people prefer it, especially if they’re trying to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their food.
While soybeans are sometimes genetically modified in mass production, sunflower seeds aren’t. The process of extraction is also gentler for sunflower lecithin. Extracting lecithin from the sunflower seeds doesn’t require harsh chemicals.
Health Benefits of Lecithin
1) Lecithin Improves Cholesterol Levels
Chronic high cholesterol leads to many heart-related complications such as heart attacks.
In one study of 30 patients, participants with high cholesterol levels took 500 mg of soy lecithin daily for 2 months. After 2 months, total cholesterol levels and bad cholesterol levels were reduced by 42% and 56%, respectively.
Soy lecithin increased liver production of good cholesterol in a 4-week study of 65 patients. Good cholesterol removes other forms of cholesterol from the body, and higher levels protect against heart attack and stroke.
2) Lecithin May Protect the Brain
Phosphatidylserine (from soy lecithin) blended with phosphatidic acid improved memory, mood, and thinking ability in a 3-month study of 72 elderly patients.
This same mixture also showed improved daily function, mood, and general condition in a different 2-month study of 56 Alzheimer’s patients.
Long-term use of drugs that treat mental disorders may cause tardive dyskinesia, an involuntary movement disorder. In a pilot study of 5 men with tardive dyskinesia, lecithin improved abnormal movements with oral supplements.
Choline in lecithin can also be used to increase the amount of acetylcholine, restoring defective pathways in the brain.
However, in a study of 51 subjects, using high doses of lecithin did not improve symptoms in dementia patients.
A meta-analysis also reported a moderate improvement on dementia after lecithin supplementation, but not enough to warrant further studies.
3) Lecithin May Treat Mental Disorders
Lecithin also contains another phospholipid called phosphatidylinositol, a natural compound that is effective in treating panic disorder.
In a study of 6 mania patients, 5 of them experienced better mental health with consumption of pure lecithin.
A 16-year-old Chinese boy with bipolar disorder, monthly insomnia, and a mild form of mania took phosphatidylcholine supplements for 14 months. His sleeping patterns returned to normal and his mania symptoms recovered.
A meta-analysis of lecithin reported its effectiveness as a complementary and alternative medicine in treating bipolar disorder.
4) Lecithin May Reduce Cancer Risk
In another study, researchers compared 3,101 previous breast cancer cases to 3,471 healthy subjects. Use of lecithin supplements was associated with reduced breast cancer risk.
Lecithin supplementation was also strongly associated with reduced breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women, but not premenopausal women.
5) Lecithin May Protect the Liver
Cholestatic liver disease is the slowing of bile flow due to damaged or inflamed bile ducts. Mice experienced less liver damage when on a soybean lecithin supplemented diet.
Individuals with choline deficiency are more susceptible to liver damage and liver failure. Choline in lecithin is first broken down in the liver where it helps to absorb fats. Otherwise, the liver is at risk of becoming too fatty.
6) Lecithin May Boost Immunity
In one study, diabetic rats given a daily supplement of soy lecithin had a 29% increase in white blood cell activity.
Meanwhile, non-diabetic rats had a 92% increase in overall white blood cells (T and B cells).
7) Lecithin Improves Stress Response
Lecithin can improve the body’s resilience to stress.
A study of 80 men and women divided into 4 groups of 20 individuals. Before exposure to a stress test, participants were given either 400, 600, or 800 mg of soy lecithin plus phosphatidylserine (another phospholipid that is commonly present in lecithin) or placebo for 3 weeks.
Interestingly, only the 400 mg group showed a decreased stress response to the stress test compared to the placebo.
8) Lecithin May Treat Colitis
The lecithin derivative phosphatidylcholine makes up over 70% of the total fats found in the mucus layer covering the inner surface of the intestine. This layer serves as a protective barrier that helps maintain the digestive tract from bacteria.
Colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that targets the inner lining of the colon with inflammation. In colitis, there is a significant reduction in phosphatidylcholine content in the protective mucus barrier allowing bacteria to easily cause inflammation.
Supplementation of phosphatidylcholine in a study of 60 colitis was able to fix the mucus barrier and decrease inflammation caused by colitis.
9) Lecithin May Protect Against Bile Salt Injury
The liver produces bile. The gallbladder stores it to digest dietary fats such as cholesterol.
When bile levels are too high, bile salts can damage cells by digesting their fatty cell membrane. Lecithin can bind to and reduce bile salt levels, protecting cells from harm.
10) Lecithin Improves Absorption of Drugs and Supplements
Improving drug absorption is a double-edged sword and a highly researched area.
Some drugs and supplements can have improved effects if more is absorbed into the body. However, it could become toxic if the body cannot properly distribute, break down, and eliminate this larger amount of the drug.
Lecithin can help transport fat-soluble drugs and nutrients across fat insoluble cell membranes. For example, supplements such as curcumin, Boswellia serrata, green tea, silymarin, and grape seed extract have all shown enhanced absorption when delivered with lecithin.
Lecithin is considered a low-risk addition to the supplements you may already use to maintain your health. But all nutrients are best taken in their whole form in food.
With some benefits and very few risks, lecithin may be an option for people who are looking to improve their cholesterol and organ functions. Be sure to discuss the use of any new supplements with your doctor before beginning treatment.