Sunflower lecithin is gaining popularity as a health supplement, as people discover its various potential benefits. If you are not exactly sure what lecithin is, or of the role it plays in the healthy functioning of the body, here is a quick guide.
Lecithin is a substance that the body makes naturally, and is essential to the biological functions which keep us alive and well. It acts as an emulsifier, which means that it prevents fats and oils from mixing with other bodily fluids.
You may already be familiar with the term emulsifier as a food ingredient, and this is indeed made from lecithin. It’s commonly added to products such as chocolate, spreads, and baked goods, to enhance the texture and bind the oil and water elements together. It’s naturally present in eggs, which is why they are often used as a cake ingredient.
Lecithin is naturally present in other foods, such as soya beans, nuts, wholegrains, and of course, sunflowers. There is very little difference between the lecithin made in the human body and that found in foods. It contains a key fatty acid known as phosphatidylcholine (PC), which plays a vital role in various functions of the human body.
Some research suggests that taking lecithin supplements could help to treat various ailments and boost overall health. It is thought that they can be taken safely by most people, although those with soy allergies should avoid soy-derived products, and opt for an alternative such as sunflower lecithin powder.
May reduce cholesterol levels
Lecithin supplements could potentially help to reduce high cholesterol levels, some research has indicated. Almost half of UK adults have raised cholesterol, according to the charity Heart UK. Too much cholesterol can increase the chances of developing heart disease, and put you at a higher risk of having a heart attack.
High cholesterol levels can be caused by diet and lifestyle, but it can also be a genetic inheritance, and even young healthy people of ideal weight can suffer from it. The only sure way to find out your level of risk is to have a check up with a medical professional.
May help with breastfeeding
Some mothers find that taking lecithin supplements makes their experience of breastfeeding easier. This is thought to be because lecithin thins the breastmilk, reducing the risk of developing blocked milk ducts. The supplement is recommended only to be used in combination with other treatments for clogged ducts, such as massage and pumping.
May improve cognitive function
There is limited evidence to suggest that the supplements could help prevent dementia, and improve the mental performance of older people. This is because they contain phosphatidylcholine, which plays a role in the formation of memory and other brain functions.
May aid digestion
Some research suggests that lecithin has a protective effect on the lining of the gut, due to the presence of phosphatidylcholine, which is also found in the intestine. People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders are thought to have less phosphatidylcholine than those with regular digestive functions.