It could Negatively Affect Your Health and Why You Need to Avoid It
Soy Lecithin is an ingredient in literally hundreds of proceesed foods, and also sold as an over the counter health food supplement. Scientists claim it benefits our cardiovascular health, the brain in general, memory, cognitive function, liver function, and even physical and athletic perfomance specifically. However, most people don’t realize what soy lecithin actually is, and why the dangers of ingesting this as a food additive or poor quality supplement far exceed its benefits.
Lecithin is an emulsifying substance that is found in all the cells of all living organisms. The French scientist Maurice Gobley discovered lecithin in 1805 and named it “lekithos” after the Greek word for “egg yolk.”
Until it was recovered from the waste products of soybean processing in the 1930s, eggs were the primary source of commercial lecithin. Today lecithin is the generic name given to a whole class of fat-and-water soluble compounds called phospholipids. Levels of phospholipids in soybean oils range from 1.48 to 3.08 percent, which is considerably higher than the 0.5 percent typically found in vegetable oils, but far less than the 30 percent found in egg yolks.
To recap, the health of your 70 trillion cells – your life’s most basic building block – is vital. They provide structure and make our energy and carry out multitudes of specialized functions. The outer cell membrane holds everything ‘properly’ inside it, controls what moves in and out and protects it from it’s environment. What it is made from is key: phosphatidylcholine – a liposomal version. Liposomall supplements are all the rage, but this actually has a specific purpose – it needs to be liposomal in order to not be broken up / pre-digested in the intestinal tract in order to foster better repair of the delicate complex phosphatidylcholine membrane structure. Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is essential for memory. Phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) is vital to mitochondrial functioning. Phosphatidylinositol (PI) is supportive to the brain and neurotransmission.
And at the end of this piece are a few videos with brilliant work on this topic by Dr Patricia Kane (remember Lorenzo’s Oil? !)
Out of the Dumps
Soybean lecithin comes from sludge left after crude soy oil goes through a “degumming” process. It is a waste product containing solvents and pesticides and has a consistency ranging from a gummy fluid to a plastic solid. Before being bleached to a more appealing light yellow, the color of lecithin ranges from a dirty tan to reddish brown. The hexane extraction process commonly used in soybean oil manufacture today yields less lecithin than the older ethanol-benzol process, but produces a more marketable lecithin with better color, reduced odor and less bitter flavor.
Historian William Shurtleff reports that the expansion of the soybean crushing and soy oil refining industries in Europe after 1908 led to a problem disposing the increasing amounts of fermenting, foul-smelling sludge. German companies then decided to vacuum dry the sludge, patent the process and sell it as “soybean lecithin.” Scientists hired to find some use for the substance cooked up more than a thousand new uses by 1939.
Today lecithin is ubiquitous in the processed food supply. It is most commonly used as an emulsifier to keep water and fats from separating in foods such as margarine, peanut butter, chocolate candies, ice cream, coffee creamers and infant formulas. Lecithin also helps prevent product spoilage, extending shelf life in the marketplace. In industry kitchens, it is used to improve mixing, speed crystallization, prevent “weeping,” and stop spattering, lumping and sticking. Used in cosmetics, lecithin softens the skin and helps other ingredients penetrate the skin barrier. A more water-loving version known as “deoiled lecithin” reduces the time required to shut down and clean the extruders used in the manufacture of textured vegetable protein and other soy products.
In theory, lecithin manufacture eliminates all soy proteins, making it hypoallergenic. In reality, minute amounts of soy protein always remain in lecithin as well as in soy oil. Three components of soy protein have been identified in soy lecithin, including the Kunitz trypsin inhibitor, which has a track record of triggering severe allergic reactions even in the most minuscule quantities. The presence of lecithin in so many food and cosmetic products poses a special danger for people with soy allergies.
One of the biggest problems associated with soy lecithin comes from the origin of the soy itself. The majority of soy sources in the world are now genetically modified (GM). Researchers have clearly identified GM foods as a threat to the environment, pollution of soils and a long-term threat to human health with links to unnatural genetic material that may have unknown long-term consequences, immunological alterations in the gut and the exacerbation and creation of allergies and the presence of the usual unwanted lectins that the beans make naturally.
GMO soy contains high concentrations of plant toxicants that have not been properly exposed or declared – thousands of plant biochemicals – many of which have been shown to have toxic effects on animals.
Unfermented Soy Sources
The manufacture of soy lecithin is also typically confined to unfermented sources because it is quicker and cheaper to make. Unfermented soy products are rich in enzyme inhibitors. Enzymes are ever-present in our foods – such as amylase, lipase, chymotrypsin and protease – and are secreted into the digestive tract to help break down food and free nutrients for assimilation into the body – an essential necessity. The high content of enzyme inhibitors in unfermented soybeans interferes with this process and makes carbohydrates and proteins from soybeans impossible to completely digest.
Unfermented soy (some people have up to 10 servings oer day – ice-cream, lattes/milk, noodles, breads, crackers, tofu, etc) has been linked to digestive distress and indirectly to immune system breakdown, PMS, endometriosis, reproductive problems for men and women, allergies, ADD and ADHD, higher risk of heart disease and cancer, malnutrition, and loss of libido.
It is now widely recognized that the only soy fit for human consumption is fermented soy.
The Making of a Wonder Food
Lecithin has been touted for years as a wonder food capable of combating atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, liver cirrhosis, gall stones, psoriasis, eczema, scleroderma, anxiety, tremors and anti-brain aging.
Health claims have been made for soy lecithin since the 1920s. This is then coupled to the concept that the human body uses phospholipids to build strong, flexible cell membranes and to facilitate nerve transmission. Dr. A. A. Horvath, a leading purveyor of soybean health claims at that early time, thought it could be used in “nerve tonics” or to help alcoholics reduce the effects of intoxication and withdrawal. In 1934, an article entitled “A Comfortable and Spontaneous Cure for the Opium Habit by Means of Lecithin” was written by Chinese researchers and published in an English language medical journal.
Lecithin did not become a star of the health food circuit by accident. Research took off during the early 1930s, right when lecithin production became commercially viable. In 1939, the American Lecithin Company began sponsoring research studies, and published the most promising in a 23-page booklet entitled Soybean Lecithin in 1944. The company, not coincidentally introduced a health food cookie with a lecithin filling known as the “Lexo Wafer” and a lecithin/wheat germ supplement called Granulestin. In the mid 1970s, Natterman, a lecithin marketing company based in Germany, hired scientists at various health clinics to experiment with lecithin and to write scientific articles about it. These “check book” scientists coined the term “essential phospholipids” an inaccurate term since a healthy body can produce its own phospholipids from phosphorous and lipids.
The above nonsense aside, lecithin, though, did not capture the popular imagination until the 1960s and 1970s when the bestselling health authors Adelle Davis, Linda Clark, Gary Null and Mary Ann Crenshaw hyped lecithin in their many books, including Let’s Get Well, Secrets of Health and Beauty and The Natural Way to Super Beauty: Featuring the Amazing Lecithin, Apple Cider Vinegar, B-6 and Kelp Diet.
In September 2001, lecithin got a boost when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized products containing enough of it to bear labels such as “A good source of choline.” This certainly made the vegetarian and vegan folks happy as they were fervent soy product fans. Producers of soy lecithin hoped to find ways to help the new legal health claim lift demand for lecithin and increase prices in what had been a soft market.
Eggs, milk and soy products are the leading dietary sources of choline, we hear now, according to recent research conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Duke University.
Phosphatidyl Choline (PC)
Because many lecithin products sold in health food stores contain less than 30 percent choline, many clinicians prefer to use/suggest the more potent Phosphatidylcholine (PC) or its even more powerful derivative drug Glyceryl-phosphorylcholine (GPC). Both are being used to prevent and reverse dementia, improve cognitive function, increase human growth hormone (hGH) release, and to treat brain disorders such as damage from stroke.
PC and GPC may help build nerve cell membranes, facilitate electrical transmission in the brain, hold membrane proteins in place, and produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. However, studies on soy lecithin, PC, and brain aging have always been inconsistent and contradictory ever since the 1920s. Generally, lecithin is regarded as safe except for people who are highly allergic to soy. However, the late Robert Atkins, MD, advised patients not to take large doses of supplemental lecithin without extra vitamin C to protect them from the nitrosamines formed from choline metabolism. Trimethylamine and dimethylamine, which are metabolized by bacteria in the intestines from choline, are important precurors to N-nitrosodimethylamine, a potent carcinogen in a wide variety of animal species.
Phosphatidyl Serine (PS)
Phosphatidyl serine (PS) – another popular phospholipid that improves brain function and mental sharpness – nearly always comes from soy oil. But most of the scientific studies proving PS’s efficacy, however, come from PS from bovine sources. These contain DHA – and plant oils never contain readymade DHA – bovine derived PS is rich in stearic and oleic acids, while soy PS is rich in linoleic and palmitic acids. Complicating matters further, the PS naturally formed in the human body consists of 37.5 percent stearic acid and 24.2 percent arachidonic acid.
Yet it was found that soy-derived PS helped many people.
Russell Blaylock, MD, author of Excitotoxins, the Taste that Kills, explains that the PS chemical structure is similar to that of L-glutamate, the trouble-making neurotransmitter, amino acid and excitotoxin that exists in high concentration in MSG (monosodium glutamate), HVP (hydrolyzed vegetable protein) and “natural flavorings” and foods containing these soy derivatives. Because PS competes with glutamate, it may actually protect us from glutamate toxicity. Possibly the expensive soy-derived supplement PS is useful to undo damage that may be caused in part by the cheap soy in processed foods!
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved lysophosphatidyl-ethanolamine (LPE), another soybean phosphatidyl extraction substance for use as a fruit ripener / shelf-life extender. LPE is now being used to treat grapes, many kinds of berries, apples, tomatoes and even cut flowers.
When fruits are nearly ripe, LPE promotes ripening. When LPE is applied to picked fruits or cut flowers that are already ripe or blooming, it will inhibit some of the enzymes involved in membrane breakdown – ie rotting. This can dramatically extend shelf life. (What a great life extension!!! UGhhhh).
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Merrie Bakker – Live Blood Analyst / microscopist – Health Educator – Author – Teacher – Speaker – Editor – Hands-on-Healer – Reflexologist – Dowser – Reiki Master – Nutritional Coach – a life-long student of holistic medicine and preventative health who believes with a passion that cellular disorganization can be prevented or reversed by ortho-molecular medicine, emotional healing work, environmental detoxification (many areas of concern) and nutritional and lifestyle re-balancing (many possibilities). Combined with vigilance, monitoring and team work, clients are encouraged to detox, rebuild, re-nourish, resolve and re-educate.