Lecithin is the name for a group of fatty substances called phospholipids or phosphoglycerides, found in eggy yolk, natural oils, blood, bile, nerves, brain, and in animal tissues. Phospholipids are formed in all cells of the body, although the ones that enter the bloodstream are produced mainly in the liver and the intestinal mucosa. The main function of phospholipids is to maintain the structural integrity of the cells. Lecithin is also a natural bile componenet important in the metabolism of fat in the liver and has been used to dissolve some gallstones. Of the various phospholipids, lecithin reaches the most areas of the body. When hydrolyzed, lecithin produces stearic acid, glycerol, phosphoric acid, and choline and is capable of breaking down fat and cholesterol clogging arterial walls.
Unrefined soybean oil contains 2% or more of lecithin, which contains both essential fatty acids (57% LA and 5-7% LNA). Lecithin from most other oils contains only LA. However, it is one of the compounds removed during the refining of oils. Lecithin is not considered an essential nutrient since the body can make it, providing that there are sufficient essential fatty acids, choline, and phosphate present in the diet.
Since lecithin is broken down during the digestive process, supplementation is virtually unnecessary since it never reaches the bloodstream intact, where it is supposed to be of most benefit.
Lecithin has some necessary functions:
1) It keeps cholesterol soluble.
2) It functions in the liver detoxification process.
3) It increases resistance to disease through its role in the thymus gland.
4) It is an important part of the membrane involved in various functions.
5) It is an important component of bile necessary for the breakdown of fats.
Lectins are toxic compounds found in many seeds, grains, and legumes, especially castor beans and black beans. Cooking detoxifies lectins and digestive juices further neutralize them, and most are poorly absorbed. The problem comes from some trying to eat raw the food items that contain lectins. Also some foods may not be sufficiently cooked, especially by those living at higher altitudes. Lectins can damage the heart, kidneys, liver, lower the blood clotting ability, destroy the lining of the digestive tract, and inhibit cell division.
Lipids contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, just as a carbohydrate molecule does. However, it has less oxygen than a carbohydrate molecule. Lipids may also contain small quantities of such other elements as phosphorus, nitrogen, or sulfur. Familiar lipids include fats, oils, and waxes. The major types are fatty acids, fats, steroids, and phospholipids. Lipids form the essential structural components of all cells. Their deposits serve as energy sources and reserves. They account for roughly 12% of the total body weight.