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Improve brain and nervous system health, digestion and liver function with this obscure ‘superfood’

From villain to super hero!

by Brett Hawes in Natural medicine

Throughout the history of food production soy has become increasingly more popular. It is actually found in the majority of processed foods for a number of reasons. It increases the protein content of processed meat products. It replaces them altogether in vegetarian foods. It stops industrial breads shrinking. It makes cakes hold on to their water. It helps manufacturers mix water into oil. Hydrogenated soybean oil is used to deep-fry fast food. The list goes on.

But there is a specific component in soy that has got a bad rap, for a long time. It goes by the name of lecithin. Most people have never heard of lecithin before but it too is pervasive throughout the food industry. It’s main purpose is to act as an emulsifier; making it very popular with chocolate manufacturers. The reason why it has got a bad rap is really because soy has a bad rap – mostly because it is a common food allergen, almost always genetically modified and laced with chemicals. That’s a bit of background regarding lecithin. Let’s get into the amazing benefits of this villain-turned-super-hero.

Lecithin is composed of a number of different chemicals including phosphoric acid, choline, fatty acids (DHA particularly), glycerol, glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipids. Every cell of the body contains phospholipids in their structure which should tell us something.

Of particular relevance regarding brain health is phosphatidylserine (PS). I covered this in a previous article where I looked at some studies regarding it’s brain health benefits. PS contributes to healthy levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, facilitates brain cell energy metabolism, and provides structural support for brain cell membranes In short, it helps improve memory, learning and cognitive function

Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is another nutrient that is abundant in lecithin. Choline is a direct precursor to the neurotransmitter acetlycholine. Acetylcholine has functions both in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and in the central nervous system (CNS) and activates muscles, including those of the GI tract. There is a link between acetylcholine and Alzheimer’s disease: roughly a 90% loss of acetylcholine in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s, which is a major cause of senility.

Both PS and PC are also believed to be involved with improving the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is essentially the fatty coating around the nervous system that prevents it from ‘short-circuiting’; much like insulation wires around an electrical cable. Damage to the myelin is a causative factor in multiple sclerosis, so lecithin may inadvertently help prevent MS (in-part anyway)

Choline is also well known as a liver decongestant. Essentially it helps to mobilize fats out of the liver and improve detoxification pathways. Couple this with the fact that lecithin is a powerful emulsifier of fats; and you have a food that can help improve liver function, increase bile flow and improve gallbladder function, and improve the digestion and metabolism of fats and fat soluble vitamins from the diet.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, soy is the major source of commercially available lecithin. However, lecithin was first isolated from egg yolk back in the 1800’s. The most common forms of lecithin on the market now are derived from soy, egg and sunflower. I personally prefer non-GMO soy lecithin as it has a higher amount of fatty acids; making it significantly better than others. If you are taking granules, take 2-6 tbsp a day to get the benefits. You can also take liquid gel-caps (2-4 per day).

 

 

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