Can Lecithin Really Improve Brain Function?
Many of us are now aware of the fact that our daily diet can have an effect on how our brains function. Expectant mums take folic acid to improve their unborn babies' neural tube development, parents give their kids fish oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids to make them smarter, and many people take natural mood enhancers to increase their serotonin uptake. Can lecithin as a health supplement also help our brain function better – and even improve our memory?
What is Lecithin?
Most people think that lecithin has a lot more to do with how we digest our foods than how our brains function. But this natural supplement, a polyunsaturated fat, is also important to brain cells and nerves. That's because it is crucial in helping supply the body with choline, a B vitamin which is vital to making the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is required for the smooth functioning of both our nerves and our brains.
While many nutritional supplements containing lecithin are on the market today, it is also found in many of the foods we eat. Derived from egg yolks and the humble soybean, the word lecithin comes from a Greek word meaning egg yolks. In fact, eggs contain a tremendous amount of lecithin, and it is also found in meat, especially organ meat, legumes such as soybeans and nuts and some vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage.
Lecithin also is instrumental in helping liquids emulsify, or making it easier to combine two liquids together that normally do not mix easily. As a result, it is also found in large quantities in ice cream, margarine and mayonnaise. Supplements of lecithin can be sprinkled directly on foods or taken in capsule form.
Scientific studies have shown that lecithin can help improve brain power. One reason is that it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier without problem, which apparently not many other properties do. Students who took health supplements containing lecithin before exams both enhanced the effectiveness of their studying, and also were able to significantly improve their memory.
Studies also showed that lecithin can be of particular benefit to old people, who see decreased levels of acetylcholine in their bodies with age, which impairs brain function. In other tests, people who took lecithin supplements were observed to have better levels of attentiveness, were more alert and had quicker reactions.
Other Uses for Lecithin
- Lecithin is known as a natural emulsifier. It is often seen as one of the ingredients on a chocolate bar wrapper because it keeps cocoa and cocoa butter from separating. It is also used in pharmaceuticals and, also as a protective covering.
- Lecithin is important in helping the liver dissolve fats properly because of its detoxification qualities, and is well known for helping the body maintain a normal level of cholesterol.
- Because it can help improve brain function, it is claimed that health supplements of lecithin can also help alleviate symptoms of some conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, liver disease, bipolar disorder, Tourette's, cardiovascular disease and others, although research is still being carried out.
- Lecithin has been shown in some tests to play a pivotal role in enhancing male fertility.
Lecithin, found in many foods, can contribute to better brain function, according to certain studies. It may be helpful for people who experience age-related memory loss and improve brain function overall. It may also help with liver problems and other ailments. As with all supplements, consult a doctor before taking to make sure there is no interaction with other supplements or prescribed medication.