Lecithin is a special health food

False. Lecithin is a complex fatty substance containing phosphorus as part of its molecule. It is found in egg yolk (where it is a saturated fat) and soya (where it is unsaturated). Soya lecithin can be a useful source of polyunsaturated fatty acids. But so can many other more readily available, accessible or less expensive oils, such as triglycerides, from soya, sunflower, safflower and corn oil.

Lecithin also contains choline. Although it can be made in the body, the body's choline can be added to by that obtained from food. Choline is used, amongst other things, as a component of a neurotransmitter (chemical for relaying messages between nerve cells and between nerve and muscle cells) called acetylcholine. There is a rare disorder of the nervous system, tardive dyskinesia (a disorder of abnormal involuntary muscle movements) where additional dietary choline, for example from lecithin, can be useful. In healthy people there is no particular need to include additional choline in the diet.

It should also be noted that lecithin is not absorbed as such. It is broken down principally to lysolecithin and fatty acid in the gut prior to absorption. Therefore, one cannot directly influence body lecithin by having it in the diet.

It is also claimed that lecithin can dissolve fat in the body because it has been shown to act as an emulsifier and disperse fats or oils in water when used as a food, additive. Unfortunately, dietary lecithin is not effective in dissolving fat from body fat stores.