Lecithin is a naturally occurring, fatty substance that’s found in foods, such as:
egg yolkssoyorgan meatsred meatseafoodwhole grainscooked green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts
In people, lecithin is produced naturally in the liver.
Lecithin is sometimes referred to as phosphatidylcholine, but the two aren’t chemically identical. Phosphatidylcholine is a component of lecithin and a precursor to choline, which it produces. While related, all of these substances differ.
Since it’s not classified as an essential nutrient, there’s no current recommended daily allowance for lecithin.
Soy lecithin is a commonly used food additive that helps processed foods remain smooth and mixed without separating. Soy lecithin is used as an additive in ice cream, baby formula, peanut butter, bread, and a wide range of other processed foods.
Lecithin has several health benefits, which have been analyzed in research. As of now, it hasn’t been definitively proven that weight loss is a benefit of lecithin.
Lecithin supplements can be purchased in gel capsule or pill form. It’s also available as a powder and as granules.
People purchase lecithin supplements to address several health conditions and symptoms, including high cholesterol and dementia. It’s sometimes recommended to nursing mothers to prevent clogged milk ducts.
In food, lecithin works as a fat emulsifier. This means that it breaks down and evenly disperses fats and oils, which keeps food blended and smoothly textured. For this reason, some people have theorized that lecithin may support rapid lipid metabolism and fat breakdown in humans.
Lecithin may break down fat into small molecules, which can then turn into fatty acids that the body easily burns off as energy. This theory, while intriguing, hasn’t been vigorously tested or proven.
There are no specific studies that conclusively point to lecithin’s ability to cause weight loss. Choline, a small component of lecithin, may have benefits for weight loss, however. Lecithin consists of approximately 3 percent choline.
One small 2014 study of 22 participants found that choline supplementation reduced body mass in female athletes, who used it to achieve rapid weight loss. Phosphatidylcholine, a component of lecithin, breaks down into choline in the body.
This study hasn’t been replicated, and this theory hasn’t been supported in any large-scale studies.
Like lecithin, choline can also be purchased in supplement form. While choline’s fat-burning abilities are also not definitively proven, you may be better off purchasing choline supplements for this purpose, rather than lecithin. The standard daily dose of choline is typically recommended by manufacturers as 250 milligrams (mg).
The most likely side effect of taking lecithin for weight loss would be that it doesn’t work, reducing your wallet rather than your waistline.
Lecithin is considered safe for most people to take. However, talk with a doctor about taking this or any supplement, especially if you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.
Lecithin may also cause reactions in people taking specific medications. For example, lecithin may escalate the effects of oral diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that’s used to treat arthritis and migraine.
Only use lecithin according to package directions. Make sure you’re not allergic to lecithin prior to taking it.
Common side effects of lecithin include:
nauseadiarrheastomach fullnessstomach discomfort
Lecithin is produced naturally in the liver. It’s also found in foods like egg yolks, red meat, and organ meats.
Lecithin is a preservative commonly used as an emulsifier in processed foods.
Some people take lecithin supplements to help with weight loss. Lecithin may have some health benefits, but currently, there isn’t a significant body of evidence linking it to weight loss.