Lecithin characteristics

What is lecithin or phospholipids?

What is lecithin or phospholipids?

What is known as lecithin is a nutritional supplement extracted from soybean oil (soybean lecithin), egg yolk (egg lecithin) or sunflower oil (sunflower lecithin).

Technically, the term lecithin is synonymous with phospholipid. Below is explained where this supplement is extracted, what is its composition, structure, functions and benefits in the body.

soy lecithin

Photo of ganulated soy lecithin

What does lecithin (phospholipid) contain?

Lecithin is an extract of the oil (fat) of a food. Being a purified substance (extract), it does not contain proteins, carbohydrates, isoflavones, antinutrients or fiber, components that can be found in soy or in food, but not in the fatty extract.

More specifically, lecithin is a type of special fat called phospholipid. Unlike other fats, it has more components besides triglycerides (glycerol and fatty acids).

Nutritional composition of lecithin or phospholipids

Below is the table of nutritional composition of a lecithin supplement. The most remarkable thing about reading it is that it contains 100% fat, therefore it does not provide other remarkable nutrients:

Nutritional composition of soy lecithin per 100 g
Calories 763 kcal.
Fat 100 g. high
Vitamin E 9,21 mg.high

Chemical structure of lecithin

Lecithin or phospholipid is a large fat molecule made up of different parts, all of them beneficial. According to the chemical definition of lecithin, its composition consists mainly of four parts:

  • Parts of lecithin (phosphatidylcholine
    Parts of lecithin (phosphatidylcholine), a type of phospholipid. If instead of choline there was inositol, the molecule would be phosphatidylinositol, and so on with other components.
  • A molecule of glycerol
  • Two (2) fatty acids bound to a glycerol
  • A phosphatidic acid linked to glycerol on the one hand, and in turn linked on the other hand to other substances, such as amines or amino acids

What is the chemical name of lecithin?

Chemically, the binding of glycerol, fatty acids and phosphatidic acid is called phosphoglyceride. When phosphatidic acid is bound to another substance it is called a phospholipid.

Therefore, when talking about lecithin, it really refers to a type of fats called phospholipids. More specifically, phosphatidylcholine is popularly called lecithin, which is a phospholipid containing choline, and the most abundant type of fat in soy lecithin.

What are the types of lecithins or phospholipids?

Depending on the type of substance to which the phosphatidic acid binds, different types of phospholipids result (types of lecithin): the most common is phosphatidyl choline, but there is also phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylethanolamine (cephalin), etc.

Types of phospholipids found in lecithins

Normally lecithins (extracts of oils sold as supplements) contain different types of lecithins (phospholipids):

lecitina de soja perlas aceite
Photo of soy lecithin pearls

  • Phosphatidylcholine (phospholipid formed by choline). Vulgarly or popularly it is called lecithin and it is the most abundant component in soy lecithin. Choline is part of acetylcholine, a substance that acts as a neurotransmitter of the nervous system. For this reason, soy lecithin helps prevent Alzheimer's disease, increase memory, improve concentration and other nervous disorders such as hyperactivity. (More information)

  • Phosphatidylinositol (phospholipid formed by inositol). Inositol is involved in many functions of metabolism, in the proper functioning of the nervous system (essential for neurotransmitters act properly), fertility, and is necessary for healthy skin, nails and hair.

  • Phosphatidylethanolamine (phospholipid formed by ethanolamine) around 20.8-23% of total phospholipids. It is vulgarly known as cephalin and is one of the most abundant phospholipids in the human body.

  • Phosphatidylserine (phospholipid formed by serine)

In the body, these substances can be "cut" from each other and therefore it is possible to obtain the different components that make them up.

What type of fat is lecithin?

Phospholipids are a type of special fat, which in biology is classified within the lipids or saponifiable fats, because in their composition they have fatty acids.

Functions of lecithin

The function of phospholipids is to be part of the cell membranes throughout the body and produce bile. When they decompose, certain components, such as choline or inositol, are used to form structures of neuronal bodies, in the form of neurotransmitters.

Properties of lecithin

The main property of these molecules is to emulsify. An emulsifier is an amphipathic molecule, which is a chemical property used to describe that it can join water with oil, or what is the same, hydrophilic substances with hydrophobic.

Soy lecithin in supplementation

Normally, lecithin is known to be part of a food supplement rich in phospholipids, inositol, choline and vitamin E. These components are found in high concentration in the nervous system (brain and nerves) and are part of the good cholesterol or HDL.

Why is it good to take lecithin?

Advantages of soy lecithin compared to other

The advantage of soy lecithin compared to lecithin extracted from eggs is that soy lecithin has a higher percentage in phosphatidylinositol.

punto rojo More information on lecithin.

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