What Is Lecithin?

Does it lower cholesterol or resolve ulcerative colitis?

Lecithin capsules, softgel, granules, liquid, peanuts, brussel sprouts, eggs, and kidney beans

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Lecithin contains phospholipids like phosphatidylcholine. Phospholipids are a type of fat. Your body converts phosphatidylcholine into choline. Choline supports cell structure in the brain, nerves, and organs.

Lecithin supplements are often derived from soybeans, sunflower seeds, canola seeds, egg yolks, or other animal products like fish. Agricultural (growing) conditions can determine a plant-derived product's fatty acids and phospholipid amounts. Lecithin is also used in cooking as an emulsifier; it helps stabilize ingredients that don't mix easily, like oil and water.

Lecithin is added to topical (on the skin) products and to supplements and medications. It's also been used as a part of placebo (a treatment with no therapeutic value given to participants in clinical trials as part of a control group) products in randomized controlled trials.

This article examines lecithin uses, sources, and evidence for lecithin's effectiveness. It also discusses possible side effects, dosage, and what to look for when buying lecithin supplements.

Unlike drugs, dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, it doesn't mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, talking to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and checking in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications is essential.

Supplement Facts

  • Active Ingredient(s): Fatty acids, phosphatidylcholine
  • Alternate Names(s): Alpha-phosphatidylcholine, E322, egg lecithin, Lecithinum ex soya, ovolecithin, sojalecithin, soya lecithin, soy lecithin, soy phospholipid, soybean lecithin, vegilecithin, vitellin, vitelline
  • Legal Status: Over-the-counter (OTC) dietary supplement in the United States; generally recognized as safe (GRAS)
  • Suggested Dose: Varies by condition
  • Safety Considerations: Children; possible interactions with prescription medications, herbs, and supplements

Uses of Lecithin

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Lecithin is not a single substance. It contains a group of chemicals, including phospholipids. Lecithin has been studied for its use in several conditions.

Dementia or Cognitive Impairment

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis (collection of studies) of lecithin's effects on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson's dementia, and memory issues. While the results suggested lecithin may positively impact self-reported memory issues, results for the treatment of dementia were unclear.

Another study suggested lecithin was equivalent to about 40 milligrams (mg) per day of tacrine, an oral enzyme called acetylcholinesterase inhibitor that's used to treat Alzheimer's disease. However, the amount of lecithin is unclear.

A review suggested choline may be somewhat helpful for impairment from a head injury. While choline is a part of phosphatidylcholine which is a part of lecithin, further research is warranted in regard to the specific effects of lecithin.

More research is needed to confirm these results.

High Cholesterol

Lecithin has been suggested to have anti-inflammatory and protective effects on the cardiovascular system.

A small study found 500 mg of soy lecithin daily for two months reduced total cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (considered the “bad” cholesterol).

Larger, well-designed studies are needed to confirm these results.


Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue. It can occur in breastfeeding people. Clogged milk ducts can lead to mastitis. Some studies have found that lecithin may treat or prevent clogged milk ducts. One source suggested 1,600 mg of lecithin a day for mastitis. Further study is needed.

Please speak with your obstetrician, your child's pediatrician, or another healthcare provider before using lecithin or any other supplements during breastfeeding.

Menopausal Symptoms

Researchers used a high (1,200 mg per day) dose or low dose (600 mg per day) of soy lecithin or placebo for eight weeks in people assigned female at birth undergoing menopause. The group getting the high dose reportedly had increased energy levels, lower diastolic blood pressure (the second number) levels, and lower cardio-ankle vascular index (a measure of atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries) readings.

More research is needed to confirm these results.

Tardive Dyskinesia That's Medication-Induced

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is characterized by uncontrolled body movements and can be due to certain neuroleptic medications used to treat neurological (brain) conditions.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis (collection of studies) of lecithin's effects on medication-induced TD. Dosages were 20 to 35 grams (g) of lecithin that contained phosphatidylcholine daily for up to eight weeks. The size of the studies was small, and the quality was low.

Further, higher-quality studies are needed to confirm these results.

Ulcerative Colitis

Low levels of phosphatidylcholine, a chemical found in lecithin, have been found in individuals with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affecting the large intestine. Phosphatidylcholine may protect the colon from "bad" bacteria and inflammation.

A meta-analysis (collection of studies) suggested 30% phosphatidylcholine-containing lecithin improved outcomes in people with ulcerative colitis.

A study gave participants either 0.8 g, 1.6 g, or 3.2 g of a supplement containing over 94% phosphatidylcholine-concentrated soy lecithin for 12 weeks. It suggested improvements in the Simple Clinical Colitis Activity Index, particularly in the group taking the 3.2-gram supplement.

Further studies are needed to confirm these results.

What Are the Side Effects of Lecithin?

Lecithin supplements are generally thought to be safe. However, it's possible to have an allergic reaction to lecithin.

Ask a healthcare provider before taking lecithin or any other supplement. This is especially important if you are taking medications of any kind or you have a health condition or allergies.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of lecithin include the following:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Headache 
Lecithin granules
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Severe Side Effects

Vomiting has been a severe side effect of lecithin.

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you believe you have a side effect from lecithin.


Do keep the following precautions in mind when using lecithin:

  • Severe allergic reaction: Avoid using lecithin if you have a known allergy to it, its ingredients, or products it may be derived from (e.g., egg, soy, fish, sunflower). Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for a complete list of the ingredients if you're unsure.
  • Pregnancy: Lecithin breaks down into choline. Adequate intake of choline during pregnancy is 450 mg per day.
  • Breastfeeding: Lecithin breaks down into choline. The adequate intake of choline during breastfeeding is 550 mg per day. While some studies have found lecithin may treat or prevent clogged milk ducts, please speak with your obstetrician, your child's pediatrician, or another healthcare provider before using lecithin or other supplements.
  • Children: There is limited research on the safety of lecithin in children. Because of this, children may need to avoid taking it. Please speak with your child's pediatrician or another healthcare provider before using lecithin or other supplements.

Dosage: How Much Lecithin Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

In studies, the following dosages were used for the following conditions:

  • High cholesterol: 500 mg of soy lecithin daily for two months
  • Mastitis: 600 mg of lecithin daily
  • Menopause symptoms: 600 to 1,200 mg daily
  • Tardive dyskinesia: 20 to 35 g of lecithin that contained phosphatidylcholine daily for up to eight weeks
  • Ulcerative colitis: 0.8 g, 1.6 g, and 3.2 g of a supplement containing over 94% phosphatidylcholine-concentrated soy lecithin for 12 weeks

Generally, never take more than the dose suggested on the label. Please consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any questions.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Lecithin?

In one study, a daily dosage of up to 54 g of lecithin appeared to have no adverse effects.

If you feel you've ingested too much lecithin, seek immediate guidance from a healthcare provider.


The following interactions may occur with lecithin:

It is essential to carefully read a supplement's ingredients list and nutrition facts panel to know which ingredients are in the product and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store Lecithin

Storage instructions vary for different products. Carefully read the directions and packaging label on the container. Keep your medications tightly closed and out of the reach of children and pets, ideally locked in a cabinet or closet. Try to store your medications in a cool and dry place.

Discard after one year or as indicated on the packaging. Avoid pouring unused and expired products down the drain or in the toilet. Visit the FDA's website to know where and how to discard all unused and expired medications. You can also find disposal boxes in your area.

Ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions about how to dispose of your medications or supplements.

If you plan to travel with lecithin, other supplements, or medications, get familiar with your final destination's regulations. Checking with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate might be a helpful resource.

Similar Supplements

Supplements similar in action to lecithin include the following:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is soy lecithin made?

    Soy lecithin is often made with chemicals like hexane or acetone. These chemicals extract lecithin from the soybean. Hexane is a harsh compound used to make varnish and glue.

    To avoid hexane or acetate, look for lecithin that is steam-processed. This is usually advertised on the product label.

  • Are there alternatives to soy lecithin?

    Yes. Sunflower lecithin is derived from sunflower seeds.

  • Can I replace my cholesterol medicine with lecithin?

    Please don't change your medications before discussing it with your healthcare provider. This will help optimize your health outcomes and avoid adverse (bad) effects.

Sources of Lecithin & What to Look For

The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements. This means their purity and safety aren't guaranteed.

Look for supplements independently tested and verified by a third party, such as the following:

  • USP
  • NSF
  • ConsumerLab

These organizations certify that the supplement contains the ingredients on the label and test supplements for purity. You can also look for products from manufacturers with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs).

Food Sources of Lecithin

Food sources of lecithin include soybeans, sunflower, canola seeds, egg yolks, or other animal products like fish.

Lecithin Supplements

Lecithin is available in many forms, including the following:

  • Capsules
  • Granules
  • Liquid
  • Paste
  • Pills
  • Powder
  • Softgels
  • Tablets

If you follow specific dietary patterns, do check your labels for the origin of your supplements. Some lecithin products are made from animal products like fish or eggs. However, vegan/vegetarian options are available for lecithin, usually from sunflower or soy.


Lecithin contains phospholipids. It may be found in specific foods or taken as a supplement. It is said to aid in the function of the brain, nerves, and other organs.

Lecithin has been studied for its use in preventing or treating various health conditions. This includes Alzheimer's disease, high cholesterol, mastitis, tardive dyskinesia, ulcerative colitis, and more. However, the evidence supporting its use for these conditions is weak; more studies are needed.

Lecithin is thought to be safe. Still, check with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements. Take the amount your healthcare provider or the label suggests. Look for products that have been tested for purity by a third party.

25 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Regina C. Windsor, MPH, RDN
Listen to yourself. Connect the dots. Find your people. Go have fun.

Originally written by Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer's research.
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