Lecithin is the collective name for a group of lipids (fatty compounds) that occur naturally in foods such as eggs, fish, milk and soybeans. 1 The food industry also uses lecithin as an emulsifier—an ingredient that helps prevent substances from separating. 2

In addition to getting lecithin through their diet, some people take lecithin supplements. Research suggests that supplementing with lecithin may offer benefits ranging from lowering cholesterol to improving symptoms of ulcerative colitis. 34

Read on to learn more about supplementing lecithin, including what it is, how it affects health, its potential side effects, and how to use lecithin supplements safely.
Benefits of Lecithin

Lecithin supplements can come from different sources, such as soy or egg yolks. Depending on the source of lecithin, supplements are made with varying amounts of several phospholipids. Phospholipids are types of fat found in all animal and human cells and are involved in key functions such as cellular communication and regulation of inflammation. 5

Although lecithin and the phospholipids contained in lecithin are found in foods such as soybeans, eggs, and vegetable oils, supplementing with lecithin provides higher doses of these components, which may benefit health in several ways. 6

May Improve Cholesterol Levels

Some research suggests that lecithin supplements can improve cholesterol levels. A small, older study of 30 patients with high cholesterol found that supplementation with 500 mg of soy lecithin capsules daily for two months resulted in a 42% reduction in total cholesterol and a reduction in LDL cholesterol compared with placebo treatment over 56%. 3

LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol because too much LDL in the blood increases the risk of heart disease. Scientists believe that lecithin lowers cholesterol by stimulating the secretion of bile acids, which are produced by the breakdown of cholesterol. 3

However, other studies have shown that lecithin does not have any effect on LDL cholesterol or total cholesterol in people with high cholesterol. 7

what is lecithin
This supplement might improve cholesterol levels in people who have not been diagnosed with high cholesterol. 7

More and larger studies are needed to determine how lecithin supplements affect blood lipid levels. 7