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Can Lecithin Keep Arteries Clean?

Have you ever heard of lecithin? What about phosphatidylcholine? Could this natural substance be good for your brain as well as your heart?
Can Lecithin Keep Arteries Clean?
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Lecithin was discovered over 100 years ago. It is a major constituent of egg yolks. The active ingredient in this natural substance is phosphatidylcholine. Some readers have reported that this compound lowers their cholesterol and is good for the heart and the brain. This person reports surprising success with supplements:

A Lecithin Success Story:

Q. I am 70 years old and have been taking lecithin for over 35 years. When the doctor viewed images of my arteries, he was amazed to find no plaque or calcification deposits of any kind. He said I had the arteries of a 20 year old. My heart doctor gave 100 percent credit to the lecithin for keeping my arteries clear.

Not being a smoker helped too, I’m sure. Lecithin has been recently credited with helping to prevent Alzheimer’s, according to my regular doctor. I recommend it to everyone.

A. Lecithin is a fatty acid found in egg yolks and soybeans. It is part of an enzyme critical to the production of beneficial HDL cholesterol, which might explain how it could have helped keep your arteries clear of plaque. One study found it may help lower bad LDL cholesterol (Cholesterol, 2010).

Mixed Results on Atherosclerosis:

It also seems to boost beneficial HDL cholesterol levels, but a recent review suggests that it may not protect people from atherosclerosis (Endocrinology and Metabolism, June, 2016). That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be helpful, but lecithin metabolism may be somewhat complicated (Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, July, 2016). Certain common digestive tract bacteria convert choline, lecithin and carnitine to a toxic compound, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). High levels of TMAO contribute to arterial plaque. Even though lecithin is part of a critical enzyme for producing HDL cholesterol, its role in atherosclerosis is not well understood (Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis, Feb., 2016).

Could Lecithin Be Beneficial for the Brain?

Lecithin is also a building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which may become low in Alzheimer’s disease. There are few placebo-controlled studies of lecithin supplements, but it appears to be generally safe.

Rodent research shows that egg yolk-derived lecithin could protect against forgetfulness induced by the drug scopolamine (Lipids in Health and Disease, Aug. 24, 2016). Aged rats also performed better in a water maze when they were given squid-derived lecithin (Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, Jan., 2015).

In elderly humans with Alzheimer disease, pilot studies showed that soy lecithin had a positive effect on memory, mood and cognition (Advances in Therapy, Dec., 2014). A related compound, phosphatidylserine derived from soy, was better than placebo for improving cognitive function in aging Japanese people complaining of memory loss (Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, Nov., 2010).

Revised: 9/15/16

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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