Lecithin is Powerful

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Lecithin is Powerful

Ever seen lecithin in action? Well, if you want to, then just place a bar of chocolate inside the freezer and wait several minutes before taking it out again. Study the chocolate bar carefully. Do you see that thin layer of white coating the candy? That is lecithin in action for you.

A Versatile Nutrient

The purposes of lecithin in the commercial sector are varied. It is used as a natural emulsifier and/or lubricant and utilized as an important ingredient for products ranging from pharmaceuticals to protective coverings. But lecithin is powerful not only for these reasons. Lecithin is powerful because it is one of the important nutrients that make up the cell membrane found in the cells of every living organism on earth and plays a vital role in normal cell functions.

Lecithin - Its Composition and Functions

In biochemistry, lecithin is often used synonymously with another term, phosphatidylcholine, which is actually one of the three main types of phospholipids found in the phosphatide fraction isolated from either egg yolk or soy beans. On the other hand, the lecithin used by many food manufacturers is a mixture of these phospholipids in oil, 20% to 90% of which is phosphatidylcholine.

One of the many reasons why lecithin is powerful is because of the presence of phosphatidylcholine. Lecithin that contains this substance is produced from vegetable, animal and microbial sources, but mainly from vegetable sources, the most important sources of which are soybean, sunflower, and grape seed.

In 1998, the US Food and Drug Administration named lecithin as GRAS, or Generally Regarded as Safe, making it one of the few emulsifiers currently sold in the market as such. This is because compared with its synthetic alternatives, lecithin can be totally biodegraded and metabolized. In addition, lecithin is powerful since it is already an integral part of biological membranes, making it virtually non-toxic. Other emulsifiers can only be excreted via the kidneys so they may contain impurities.

Phosphatidylcholine is a mixture of differently substituted sn-glycerol-3-phosphatidylcholine backbones. Chemically, its structure is utterly variable and dependent on fatty acid substitution. Another reason that lecithin is powerful is its role in protecting fatty acids from the damages caused by oxidation.

An essential nutrient, fatty acids are highly vulnerable but greatly needed by the body. They are polyunsaturated fats and are a vital pat of each molecule. By keeping these fatty acids from becoming damaged due to oxidation, phosphatidylcholine or lecithin stabilizes them, keeping them away from harmful substances.

Lecithin is powerful because of its unique structure. It is both fat loving for the fatty acids (lipophilic) and hydrophobic, meaning it will always be moving away from areas with lots of water. This tendency of lecithin to move away from watery areas and towards areas with lots of fats is the reason why lecithin is powerful, especially when it comes to protecting fatty acids. In moving towards the fatty acids and moving away from the watery areas, lecithin molecules form a ring around the fatty acid molecule that keeps it away from oxidation-causing molecules.
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