Harmful or Harmless: Soy Lecithin

78617919Soy lecithin is one of the most ubiquitous additives in our food supply. It’s used primarily as an emulsifier, and you can find it in everything from salad dressing to tea bags. Paleo dieters avoid the brunt of it by eliminating most processed foods, but it almost always pops up in chocolate (everyone’s favorite honorary Paleo food) and often appears in supplements.

I recommend avoiding soy as a general rule, but consuming small amounts of soy lecithin as an additive is very different from, say, eating a soy burger  topped with soy cheese or drizzling soybean oil on your salad. This article will probably be more than you ever wanted to know about soy lecithin, but I wanted to do my best to get all the facts out on the table.

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What is Soy Lecithin?

The term ‘lecithin’ can have different meanings depending on the context, but for our purposes, it refers to a mixture of phospholipids and oil. Phospholipids are a component of the cell membrane in all plants and animals, but lecithin is most often derived from sunflower kernels, rapeseed (canola), milk, soy, and egg yolks. (1)

The specific composition of soy lecithin varies depending on its manufacturer and intended use, but on average, it contains about 35% soybean oil and 16% phosphatidylcholine. (2) Phosphatidylcholine is a type of phospholipid that is abundant in liver and egg yolks, and is the primary form of choline found in foods. (3) The remaining percentage is other phospholipids and glycolipids.

To make soy lecithin, soybean oil is extracted from the raw soybeans using a chemical solvent (usually hexane). (4) Then, the crude soy oil goes through a ‘degumming’ process, wherein water is mixed thoroughly with the soy oil until the lecithin becomes hydrated and separates from the oil. Then, the lecithin is dried and occasionally bleached using hydrogen peroxide.

There are many claims online about soy lecithin being full of nasty chemicals left over from the production process. Not surprisingly, there aren’t many credible sources describing the chemical content of commercial soy lecithin, but I have found some relevant data about the safety of soy lecithin.

Before the ‘degumming’ step where lecithin is removed, the crude oil undergoes a multi-step process to remove the hexane. (5) However, it appears that the FDA doesn’t regulate the amount of hexane residue in food products, and one paper estimated that the residual hexane concentration of soy oil is 500-1000ppm. (6) So, it’s very possible that similar concentrations remain in the soy lecithin. (For comparison’s sake, the concentration limit for hexane in pharmaceuticals is 290ppm.) (7)

According to one analysis, total pesticide residues in crude soy oil are around 400ppb. (8) Since the pesticide concentration of the oil after degumming is similar, it’s pretty likely that some of those pesticides end up in the lecithin as well.

While it’s unfortunate that soy lecithin likely contains pesticides and solvents, I would just encourage you to keep this information in perspective. We’re exposed to hundreds of chemical toxins every day in our air, water, household products, and food, and contaminants in soy lecithin will contribute only slightly to your overall toxic load. After all, we’re talking parts per million and parts per billion, and soy lecithin itself usually makes up no more than 1% of processed foods. (9)

Of course, in an ideal world, we would be able to avoid these things altogether, and I certainly recommend reducing your exposure as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to make sure your detox systems are functioning effectively. But unless you have a severe chemical sensitivity to hexane or pesticides, occasionally consuming small amounts is not worth getting bent out of shape over.

Allergies

Soy allergies are triggered by soy proteins, so whether lecithin triggers an allergic response or not depends on its protein content. One analysis found protein concentrations ranging from 100 to 1,400ppm in six different soy lecithin samples. (10) (For reference, the new FDA gluten-free labeling law requires a gluten concentration of less than 20ppm.) (11) Another analysis of six different lecithin samples found that four had sufficient protein to trigger an IgE-mediated response in people with soy allergies, while two contained no detectable protein at all. (12) However, another study performed similar testing and concluded that even if protein is present in soy lecithin, it’s not a significant allergen for people with soybean allergies. (13)

It’s clear that the source of the soy lecithin is a major determinant in whether or not it will present a problem for those with soy allergies, but if you have a soy allergy, I’d say better safe than sorry. However, because protein is present in such a low concentration, and soy lecithin itself usually makes up no more than 1% of processed foods, it’s probably not a problem for those with minor sensitivities to soy.

GMO

Most of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified, so unless the label says ‘organic soy lecithin,’ it probably came from a genetically modified soybean. You know I’m not a fan of GMOs, due to the presence of potentially transferrable DNA and potentially immunogenic proteins. However, as I discussed in the section on allergies, soy lecithin contains very little soy protein, and lecithin from some sources contains no detectable protein at all. Soy lecithin also contains very little DNA, and the DNA present is usually degraded to the extent that it’s impossible to tell whether the soy is genetically modified or not. (14) Thus, most of the risks associated with consumption of GMOs aren’t relevant for soy lecithin, and shouldn’t be cause for concern.

Phytoestrogens

Soy is the greatest food source of phytoestrogens, and one group of researchers discovered significant estrogenic activity in soy lecithin. (15) Interestingly, none of the soy lecithin they tested contained genistein, which is the predominant phytoestrogen in soy. They concluded that “a so-far unidentified estrogen-like compound” is present in soy lecithin that accounts for its estrogenic activity.

We know how problematic phytoestrogens can be, but again, the dose makes the poison. Remember, soy isn’t the only source of phytoestrogens we’re exposed to. (Did you know that flaxseed is also a significant source of phytoestrogens? In fact, one study showed that supplementation with ground flaxseed altered estrogen metabolism even more than supplementation with soy flour.) It’s definitely best to keep phytoestrogens to a minimum, and individuals dealing with cancer or fertility problems might want to avoid them more strictly. But for most generally healthy people, the small amounts of phytoestrogens from soy lecithin shouldn’t be a problem.

Toxicity

One study that has been used widely as ammunition against soy lecithin is titled “Effects of a Commercial Soy Lecithin Preparation on Development of Sensorimotor Behavior and Brain Biochemistry in the Rat.” Researchers found that soy lecithin in concentrations of 2% and 5% in the diets of pregnant and newborn rats resulted in impaired reflexes and swimming ability, along with other cognitive deficiencies.

It’s important to understand that these effects are due to choline toxicity, not soy lecithin per se. The elevated brain/body weight ratios, plus elevated acetylcholine and choline acetyltransferase levels that resulted from soy lecithin supplementation were caused by the phosphatidylcholine, and would’ve still occurred even if they had used a source of phosphatidylcholine other than soy; even egg yolks.

It would be very difficult to consume as much choline as these rats did, especially from soy lecithin. In fact, most people are deficient in choline! This is just another case of a study being misinterpreted, and you certainly don’t need to worry about soy lecithin causing developmental problems.

Therapeutic Uses

I believe I’ve covered all of the main concerns about soy lecithin, but it’s worth mentioning that soy lecithin is also being recommended and consumed as a dietary supplement. There is a growing body of research supporting its use for improving blood lipids, reducing inflammation, and treating neurological disorders. (16) For instance, one study found that after 2 months of supplementing with 500mg of soy lecithin per day, total cholesterol levels fell by 42% and LDL levels decreased by 56%. (17)

However, most of these studies involve supplementation with a purified form of soy lecithin, which usually contains less soy oil and more phosphatidylcholine than the commercial soy lecithin that shows up in foods. Additionally, isolated phosphatidylcholine is often referred to as ‘lecithin’ in scientific contexts, so some studies supplementing with ‘soy lecithin’ are really just supplementing with phosphatidylcholine.

So once again, it’s not the soy lecithin; it’s the choline. Luckily, you can derive all the benefits of phosphatidylcholine supplementation just by increasing your consumption of choline-rich foods like egg yolks and liver.

So, what to do?

The only people who need to make a point of avoiding soy lecithin are those with severe soy allergies or chemical sensitivities, and of course, those who notice that they personally react badly to it. And if you don’t have a soy allergy, almost all of the remaining concerns about soy lecithin (pesticides, solvents, and GMOs) can be completely eliminated by purchasing products that contain organic soy lecithin.

But for the vast majority of the population, even conventional soy lecithin isn’t worth worrying about one way or the other. If it’s just as easy for you to avoid it as it is to consume it, then do so. (For example, Enjoy Life is one popular brand of chocolate that is soy-free.) Ultimately, I think most people can just enjoy their occasional chocolate treat without worrying about whether it contains soy lecithin.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. aysin says

    Chris, as a breastfeeding mother who recently had problems with plugged ducts and ran the risk of mastitis, I discovered that lecithin is recommended as a dietary supplement to minimize the risk of milk clogging up ducts. Of course the only lecithin I could get my hands on was, you guessed it, soy lecithin. Now the recommendation is to up to 1600 mg per day and this is obviously superior to any amounts there may be in chocolate. What do you think about this usage? Do you think I’m just better off continuing to eat several eggs a day?

    • Addie says

      I have this same question as I have also been taking lecithin to prevent future plugged ducts after having a few intense bouts of mastitis during Breastfeeding. Chris will you please comment on this ? Thank you !

    • Nicole says

      I too am wondering about soy lecithin and plugged milk ducts. I just took the plunge and went soy/dairy/gluten free last week and woke this am with a plugged duct,. Soy lecithin (in addition to heat, more frequent nursing etc) has been a huge help the few times this has happened in the past. Now I’m on the fence about taking it. Would searching for some sunflower lecithin be a better choice?

      • Heather says

        Soy lecithin was not recommended when I was nursing (now 7 years ago), but I would avoid it because of the phytoestrogens. Plugged ducts can often be cured with hot water bottles on the affected area, gentle massage and drinking lots of water. Also, try having the baby nurse more frequently and start him or her on the affected side until the blockage clears. If the baby doesn’t fully empty one side you can pump the excess if you are worried about repeat blockages. Good luck.

        • Jessica says

          But the lecithin works! I don’t know if it was soy, but it had an orange label and it was from a natural foods coop. I only needed to take two-three doses in one day (with coconut oil, hot compress, nursing, massage, etc) and the plugged duct was gone the next day.

    • Mary M says

      The homeopathic remedy “Phytalacca decandra” is very helpful for plugged ducts and mastitis. It helped me many times over my approximately 18 years of nursing five children and it helped the friends I recommended it to as well. I am not very into homeopathy but there are some remedies so effective that I do recommend them.

  2. pm says

    I supplement with lecithin and use it to make liposomal Vitamin C and glutathione; so I buy only organic sunflower lecithin made without hexane. Trace amounts delivered directly to my cells via liposomal transport daily would not be an acceptable risk in my view.

  3. lou says

    I’ve understood that the cocoa butter is removed and then sold for good money to the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. It’s replaced by cheap soy lecithin and vegetable oils. The considerations are purely economical (profits/bottom line), nothing to do with taste (which is inferior to cocoa butter), quality or health. Personally, I think it sucks. I want to eat a superior product that is ‘whole’ and includes cocoa butter for taste, mouth feel AND health. Rather eat less and pay more (a fair price) than eat a more processed and fragmented product with inferior substances. There are some very good chocolates around without soy lecithin, such as Kallari, Theo and Alter Eco – they also all happen to be fair trade, which doesn’t surprise me: integrity all the way. (Not affiliated!).

    As for soy lecithin: for some mysterious reason (maybe the solvents, then?) I cannot tolerate it, whereas little amounts of soy sauce or tofu are no problem.

    • says

      I agree with those chocolate recommendations. It’s becoming easier and easier to find chocolate without any soy added. I also recommend the brand Sacred Chocolate (not affiliated in any way!), as their quality is unparalleled in the business (but also pretty pricey). You’d think that with all the affordable soy-free chocolates out there, more companies would catch on, because of the fact that soy-free eliminates so many issues (GMO, potential allergies).

    • Susan says

      Agreed Lou! I just tried Eating Evolved Primal Dark Chocolate after seeing Chris Kresser’s giveaway a few weeks ago.It’s soy-lecithin free and organic (and also Fair-Trade I believe). Love their 85% cacao. For me it’s worth it to get higher quality chocolate without the fillers.

    • Alex says

      Just wanted to drop a plug for my current top-favorite chocolate, Panama 80% dark chocolate by Equal Exchange. No soy or other additives/preservatives, Fair Trade, $4-or-under per bar, and only ~8g of sugar per 9-square serving (24 squares per bar; total 9g net carbs and 5g fiber per serving). So rich and creamy, amazing with a handful of hazelnuts or macadamia nuts or just by itself, and rich enough that a couple of squares at a time is plenty satisfying. (Not affiliated, just a fan of good food who’s worked their way through all of the more affordable additive/milk-free fair trade chocolate options at the local healthy grocery stores.)

    • Izz says

      You can make your own chocolate, it’s very easy. There’s a recipe for raw chocolate on the Quirky Cooking website.

  4. Kelley says

    Years ago I wrote to Boca Burger asking them about GMOs and they wrote back saying that even the organic burgers had GMO soy in it. Its everywhere now.

      • Krissy says

        Perhaps but in Australia at least if at least 75% (I think, don’t quote me on that) of the ingredients are organic then the product can be labelled “organic”. So for example, Green & Black’s chocolate is labelled “organic” but if you read the list every ingredient is organic EXCEPT for the soy lecithin. Which pisses me off so I don’t eat it. For the cost I can buy one without the crappy fillers so why would I settle?

  5. Regina says

    Thanks Chris, I am always stressing about products containing any kind of soy. Not that I won’t still avoid it if possible but the stuff is in everything and if you are in a bind…but I will eat the chocolate I like with a little more enjoyment!

    As far as therapeutic uses: Is reducing total cholesterol even a concern anyway?

  6. says

    I appreciate the article. However, I did want to mention “accumulation.” Although soy lecithin in minute amounts from one product in one day may have no consequence, has anyone considered the idea that there may be an accumulation effect when digesting multiple products per day with small amounts of soy lecithin? And if it is not expelled from the body, how does it accumulate within the body and is there a means for chelating it’s toxic effects?

  7. Silas says

    Chris, I’m floored by your recent recommendations. First, radioactive fish. Now GMO soy! You are spreading half truths. This is unacceptable. How much did it cost to buy you off?? I will be unsubscribing from this fantasy you think is helpful/healthy information.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Right, Silas. The radioactive fish-GMO soy lecithin lobby bought me off! Makes sense.

      My recommendations have always been evidence based. I dislike hysterical web claims that are based only on hearsay and lead to unnecessary stress and overly restrictive approaches to diet and supplements.

      Show me credible, peer-reviewed evidence that contradicts anything written in any of these articles, and we can have a real discussion.

      • Morgan says

        Chris, thank you for being one of the most level-headed figures in the paleo community. I’m so sick of passionate people who half the time don’t know the basis for what they’re so passionate about. And the lashing out at others like the above commentator just shows the immaturity. Anyway I’m so glad you posted this as it’s been difficult for me to find a good protein powder for my husband’s work out recovery drink. (I’m sure I could get some backlash about that). But regardless, thanks so posting relevant posts and sticking to the facts. Well done.

      • STG says

        Chris, you are such a great source of health info because you are evidence/science based. You understand methodology and view research critically. I think the above criticism is misguided. I hope Silas will continue to come to your website and at some point realize that you are true to the science.

      • iLikeToChangeTheNick says

        I made a quick search again and I’ve found a westonaprice page about it.

        http://www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert/soy-and-the-brain
        http://www.livestrong.com/article/524606-what-are-the-dangers-of-soy-lecithin-ingestion/

        In another page I’ve read that as I wrote I remembered soy lecithin increased brain shrinkage in Hawaii Men’s Health Study but there’s no references.

        http://www.totalityofbeing.com/FramelessPages/Articles/FeedingYourBrain.htm

        So such makes me enough cautious about soy lecithin to not consume any gmo soy, but I’m not very sure about non-gmo or organic soy lecithin because probably the lecithin in the studies is mostly gmo soy lecithin. I did not check if there were studies from countries that forbid gmos in human food such as EU countries…

      • David Austin says

        Chris -
        This response of yours has won you a follower in me, to replace of the paranoid nutrition-purist who thinks the radioactive fish lobby and pro-GMO lobby paid you off. I would love to see the data you’ve seen about lecithin studies. Are there safer brands than others for those of us who use it for liposomal solutions, homemade chocolates, an other stuff?

  8. Dan, D.C. says

    Great article Chris. I enjoy reading most of what you write. I get this question a lot from my patients and you did a great job summarizing the major concerns and questions. Re: soy food allergy, what test do you recommend? I’ve used Cyrex labs in AZ before, but they check for close to 20 other food sensitivities and cross reactivities to gluten. Is there another you would recommend if a pt just wanted to check for soy? Thanks in advance.

  9. Cathi says

    Chris, I’m wondering about the sweetener Stevia when it comes to Hormonal disrupters. I had read somewhere several years ago that Stevia also can effect hormones. But have not been able to find that article. Do you know anything about that? Or was that just an advertising scare from the sugar company to keep people from buying and using Stevia as a sweetener.

  10. Laura says

    Actually, this is not “more than you would ever want to know about soy lecithin.”. This detail is EXACTLY why we come to you for guidance in our respective journeys to optimal health and happiness! Thank you!

  11. says

    Just to weigh in on the chocolate issue. There is a GF/DF/SF chocolate available called Stone Ground from Needham, Mass. It is my absolute favorite chocolate. I take no money from them (or anyone else) to promote this chocolate. I buy it. I eat it.

  12. Diane says

    Hi Chirs! I avoid all soy as much as possible and also avoid soy lecithin as much as possible. I have to make my own chocolates with coconut oil to get my fix. I take sunflower lecithin due to the lack of a gall bladder. I know soy inhibits thyroid hormones. Does soy lecithin inhibit them as well?

  13. Fiona Weir says

    Chocolate eaters – try Lindt Excellence! The packet says ‘May contain traces of soya lethicin’ but it is certainly not listed as an ingredient. 85% and 90% cocoa (a bit of an acquired taste) have less sugar and salt than the normal 70%. I do get a headache but it must be the cocoa itself causing it, not soya in
    this instance.

  14. ChocoCreep says

    My 2 chocolate cents: In my experience/to my taste, the best widely available chocolate without soy lecithin is Green and Black’s organic 85% bar. It’s the only G&B bar I’ve found that doesn’t have soy lecithin. I prefer it to the Lindt lineup as well as to many smaller market “specialty”/”gourmet”/”whatever word makes you think they’ll be better than they are” chocolate bars that seem to always underwhelm the taste buds after the wallet has been emptied for them.

  15. Carolyn Hill says

    If you want to use lecithin for something you’re making, sunflower lecithin has more choline and is organic, soy-free, and non-GMO through Lekithos (mysunflowerlecithin.com)

  16. Sharon says

    While I can’t vouch for the safety of soy lecithin for those with IgE allergies, my young son has a significant IgG sensitivity/allergy to soy (delayed reaction). He eats no soy products, not even lecithin. If he has even minute amounts of soy lecithin, his symptoms of facial redness, digestive problems, and insomnia start up again. He has no reaction to sunflower lecithin.

  17. Jane says

    Could you explain then why Japanese women (and men) live longer than anyone else in the world and regularly consume soy ?

  18. DavidH says

    The chocolate you recommend has a fair amount of sugar, as do most of the others recommended here. Isn’t that one of the toxins you recommend avoiding? I gave up on commercial chocolates, almost all are cooked for days and are sweetened with sugar. I used to eat a fair amount of dark chocolate and it would make me break out and not feel good. Now I make my own with raw organic cacao powder, and it’s great.

  19. Jackie says

    Although a direct link to heart attack has not been made, researchers recently showed that intake of phosphatidylcholine, a major component of lecithin, temporarily raises blood levels of the compound TMAO. This is of concern because a 3-year study by the same researchers showed that people with the highest blood plasma levels of TMAO — above 6 µM (micromoles) — were 2.5 times as likely as those with the lowest levels (under 2.5 µM) to suffer a heart attack or other major adverse cardiovascular event (Tang, New Eng J Med 2013). TMAO is produced from the choline in phosphatidylcholine by the actions of microbes in the gut and enzymes in the liver. TMAO appears to advance atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by reducing the normal clearing of cholesterol.

  20. Cassie says

    Okay for some but not for me. I was eating Aldis 85% chocolate & started getting belly ache. Someone looked at the ingredients and saw it has soy lecithan as an ingredient. I then started to eat 85% Lindt and was fine. No tummy ache.

  21. joe says

    I read recently that the greater portion of the soy in products here in the United States is grown and processed in China. There are no standards in China to regulate whether they use GMO seeds or the manner with which they process the soybeans. How much of this is true?

  22. Ann Anagnost says

    While it is true that the amounts of soy lecithin may be small in chocolate, I think we need to apply more pressure to the food industry to eliminate soy additives from our food. And it is more than just about personal health. We need to focus on the larger picture of what soy production is doing to the environment and to the health of those other than ourselves. You might want to view the film available for free online Argentina’s Bad Seeds to see what the soy industry is doing to the populations who have been affected by the expansion of the soy industry in Latin America.

    Also, even in brands of extra-dark chocolate (85% cocoa and above) that do not have soy lecithin, their lighter products such as milk chocolate do have it. I am thinking for example of the one brand of extra-dark choclate that Trader Joe’s still sells that is soy free. Their fair-trade organic line appears to have disappeared.

  23. iLikeToChangeTheNick says

    I remember I’ve read something like soy lecithin caused brain shrinkage,probably in rats. I searched for gmo “soy lecithin” brain and one of the first links gave enough information for me to stop and at least forget about not minding consuming gmo soy lecithin. I will also be cautious about gmo soy lecithin being used in anything I consider consuming though gmos in human food is forbidden in the country I live in, luckily I do not buy processed foods.

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/524606-what-are-the-dangers-of-soy-lecithin-ingestion/

  24. iLikeToChangeTheNick says

    I consume flaxseed for its phytoestrogens and avoid soy for its phytoestrogens, because they are different.
    Flaxseed phytoestrogens, lignans, reduce body’s utilization of more estrogenic hormones by making use of themselves, which are so little estrogenic that they make an antiestrogenic effect on the body.
    On the other hand soy phytoestrogens make an estrogenic effect in body.
    I felt like Chris was making a different point about it, maybe someone can explain what was implied more detailed. Please explain if what I do may be bad.

  25. Megan says

    Thanks for this informative, balanced information! I really appreciate your level-headed approach to foods that others in the alternative health community might just blindly condemn. I have found (and I think you would agree based on your “beer-and-pizza-diet” story) that you cannot underestimate the role of happiness in promoting health and wellness. Of course if you react badly to something, you shouldn’t eat it. However, I believe constant, irrational food paranoia is almost certainly a major stressor to the body. I’ve felt much better on Paleo since I have loosened things up a bit and adopted a more light-hearted approach in which pleasure and happiness are factored into my “should I eat this” equation. It is nice to know I needn’t spend too much time fretting over occasional soy lecithin.

  26. pm says

    For all of the people that love chocolate and worry about the ingredients, you should learn how to make your own. It’s easy, 100% healthy and much less expensive than buying it.

        • pm says

          Here is the recipe I use.

          In a double boiler add and mix 1/2 cup raw cacao nibs, 1/2 cup nuts, 2 cups raw cacao butter, 1 tsp coconut oil, 1/2 cup raw cacao powder, 1/2 cup (or more to suit your taste) xylitol. (if you don’t have a double boiler you can use a large and small ceramic plate)

          Gradually mix in dry ingredients after butter, coconut oil and nibs melt.

          pour in mold or on a plate and refrigerate for 1 hour.

  27. says

    I had never before heard of soy lecithin. I’ll share this information. Thanks for posting! I think the main point here is that the food industry uses too many chemicals and additives in general. We need to eat natural foods like we were meant to!

  28. Jane says

    Sorry Aysin but that article did not show why the Japanese live longer than anyone else…… they regularly consume soy….and lots of iodine but that is no answer.

  29. Noel says

    Chris,

    The article is good but does not provide the meat that I was looking for. If you decide to dig more into it, here are the comments.

    Soy lecithin, apart from additives, I think it can be a very good supplement for brain function, if and ONLY if, the phospholipids in the lecthin piece are untouched and not getting modified in some way in the chemical process.
    Then what amount of phytoestrogens do these lecithin blends contain. Is there any limit? Is there any source to find which supplement (not additive) contain what amount of phytoestrogens?
    When the supplements mention, like phosphatidylcholine or Phosphatidylserine, is sourced from Soy lecithin, 500mg of lecithin contains 100mg of the above stuff, then what is rest 400mg? Is there any way that you can find this information (apart from the manufacturer). Supplement market is not regulated by the FDA (but it should by some body), so they can make all wild claims that they like but they do not suffer from it. The user does.
    What is the difference between Soy lecithin and Sunflower lecithin, for example?
    I think, I will stop for time being.

    Like the way you write your articles though, with scientific proofs but just avoid Life Extension articles style, where they cherry pick their references.

  30. Carolyn says

    One good easy homemade chocolate treat is a couple of tablespoons of melted coconut oil (or about 1/2 inch) in a glass custard cup; add powdered chocolate to taste (1 tsp or a little more), and for a good taste, 1/2 tsp or so maca powder ( I use the cooked kind, i.e. not raw, b/c of thyroid issues). If you want more sweetness, add a couple of drops of stevia liquid. Stir of course. Then freeze for about 1/2-1 hour. Easy to remove by pressing a sharp knife down the side. It usually pops up. Sometimes I need to run hot water on the inverted cup for a few seconds; then it pops out. Then eat it like a “bar” of sorts right away, before it melts.

    One of my favorite additions is very finely chopped ginger (Cuisinart).

  31. Alicia says

    I do some dietary coaching and have been recommending lecithin to people I can’t get to give up veganism, on the grounds that however good it is or isn’t a choline deficiency is worse. Would you disagree with that? Any thoughts on dosage to get the best risk/benefit ratio?

    • richardkroughtce says

      give up NOT eating meat? are you insane?

      i wouldn’t touch animal product if my life (and it does) depend on it.

      i’ve been eating unprocessed soy for decades… now.. when i was ingesting dairy, my life was a nightmare.. since i stopped ingesting what was suppose to be good for me all the issues halted.

      i wonder who is telling the truth? i wonder who is on the USDA side and who IS on the SOY side. ? makes one wonder doesn’t it?

      someone is getting kickbacks. soy is better, overall and sorry all processing is bad.

      do some research, key points: arteriosclerosis.

  32. Blair says

    I am a breastfeeding mama and recently had several clogged ducts. I was told to take a tablespoon of soy lecithin a day because it thins out the milk (without lessening its quality) so that its easier to loosen the plug. I took it because I was doing everything possible to avoid mastitis and having to take antibiotics. Not sure if it made a huge difference but I was able to unclog the ducts and not get an infection. Any idea why it would thin breastmilk?

  33. Marija says

    I generally avoid soy as much as possible (except for the small amounts of raw fermented organic soy sauce and soy lecithin in some chocolates). However, I do eat about 2-3 tablespoons of whole flax seeds per day. I read somewhere that only ground flax seeds have estrogenic effect on the body and that whole flax seeds are ok to consume. Is this true? And, what about chia seeds? Do they contain phytoestrogens as well?

  34. deb mitchell says

    Just want to say that after having severe hives for suddenly for several years I have finally narrowed it down to happening when I eat foods that have soy lecithin. Everything from cheese, chocolate, red vine candy to all kinds of frozen foods….interesting I seem to be able to eat soy products just fine.

  35. M J says

    2 years ago I had breast cancer – estrogen receptive positive – I try so hard to avoid soy because of the estrogenic effect but as you said, it is nearly impossible. Is soy lecithin dangerous for breast cancer survivors? I keep getting mixed information.

  36. Margaret says

    MJ I am a BC survivor as well and I was told that soy lecithin is not dangerous. In fact my oncologist is not freaked out about soy at all really. She said in moderation is fine.

  37. tina says

    my doctor advised to take 1000 Lecithin and 1000 Arginine daily for neuropathy in hand and feet, most likely due to diabetic.

    After reading all the info I wonder if it is worth the risk since I also have high blood pressure.

  38. Pernille says

    Chris,
    Don’t you think that the overall list of content in soy lecithin (small dose or not) seem quite worrying? Forget about what the studies (so far) are telling us, but in terms of the actual compounds or processes themselves, most of them hold some sort of potential health risk. You say it yourself, soy lecithin appears in all kinds of foods, I know, because I am going out of my way to avoid it, a job which calls for huge determination!
    I think it is important for spokespeople, representing medical science and industry, to keep in mind that not everyman thralls through the ingredient list to look and see if there are potentially contents that calls for further research before consumption. Most people TOTALLY rely on, that some kind of authority is looking out for their best of interest and health.
    If soy lecithin doesn’t cause any thread to good health, then why suggest “.. to keep phytoestrogens to a minimum, and individuals dealing with cancer or fertility problems might want to avoid them more strictly”. ? I am not looking for The Poisonous Dose of soy lecithin, I am far more concerned about slight alterations within the body’s automatic chemical responses, over time potentially leading to DNA mutations (cancer).
    I am not suggesting that soy lecithin, being the isolated little tiny substance that it is, is the only one to carefully reconsider in terms of man’s overall health, there are many others: HFCS, Aspartame, Sodium Sulphite, Potassium Bromate, MSG/E621 as well as a load of others, including various E-numbers.
    -And I am sure that the individual item of food in its wrapping, on the supermarket shelf, only contain a very tiny amount, but have you noticed the size of today’s supermarkets and how many types of products each of them stock?!
    Unless you are Food & Health interested, there is no way that one’s ever going to read, reflect and reconsider which items should regularly be featuring in one’s shopping trolley and which ones (apart from on the odd occasion) should go back on the shelf.
    We really, desperately need some honest guidance from the ‘Experts’, i.e. people like yourself!
    Because people (including myself) read this kind of stuff, in the hope of receiving some kind of ‘truth’ in what to do.

  39. Cristina says

    Hi Chris,
    I don’t understand. You say ” it’s not the soy lecithin; it’s the choline.” If the Soy is the carrier of Choline, then the problem IS the soy lecithin.
    You also say, that products have so little amount in them. If you add all the products we are consuming that have soy lecithin, then that’s a problem, too.
    Plus, if they are spraying it in fruits and vegetables to get them ripe, then we can’t really avoid it, can we?
    Please clarify,
    Thank you

  40. GF says

    I don’t know if anyone is still posting/responding, but what about soy lecithin in teas for someone struggling with low T3, normal T4 (or euthyrodism, which Dr. Kresser has written about before)???? It is not an allergy. I was given two boxes of wonderful sounding tea for Christmas…but with soy lecithin…. Do I avoid them to be safe, or can I enjoy them guilt free?

    • Cathy Sullivan says

      Everyone should be aware that if you take Synthroid or its generic equivalent – thyroxine – that soy is CONTRAINDICATED as it reduces the effectiveness of the drug. I found this out after a partial thyroidectomy but the info on the pamphlet enclosed with your prescription isn’t stated until the end – after the chemical diagrams! Anyone with thyroid issues should avoid all soy products.

  41. Rachel Chwazik says

    Although outside the scope of this article, which is health focused, I wanted mention that some people like me avoid soy for policial reasons. There is over production of GMO soy in this country and it is ruining our biodiveristy and putting small farmers (organic and non) out of business. It concerns me that it’s a byproduct of soy processing and I wonder if the industry is just trying to find new places to put it. I don’t understand why it’s in tea (which is what led me here to be begin with).

  42. Donald Sutherland says

    Chris where are your federal based evidence data in this sory?
    Fact: There is no federal government clinical studies on the health effects of genetically modified/engineered soy and GM soy by products including GM soy lecithin according to the FDA and CDC.

    Fact: The CDC recognizes GM soy and GM soy products as one of 8 major allergens and USDA states over 91 percent of soy and soy products is GM.

    Fact: GM soy and GM soy products in the majority of processed food in the US according to FDA and CDC study 1996-2007 showed 18 percent increase in children food allergies.

    Fact: GM soy and GM soy products are mandated by government food/health agencies in 64 countries to be labelled but not in the US. And China bans direct consumption of GM soy.

    None of these facts should give the consumer confidence in the safety of GM soy lecithin

  43. richardkroughtce says

    dears.. eating an unprocessed soy bean is NOT the same. i’ve been consuming soy for 54 years and i hate to blow your kite into a tree.. but i’m fine.

    it doesn’t matter.. estrogen is in all things and plus it’s been processed so it makes no difference what it is processed soy, dairy, other packaged nonsense, refined foods are bad for you, period.

    so, don’t blame soy… blame the industry of processing.

    learn something, i grew up in processing and i’ll tell you this much.. there’s a reason why i don’t eat those foods.

    and if you want an estrogen giant.. talk to the USDA about all it’s propaganda and what they’re hiding.

    move along, nothing, as usual to see here.

  44. Lisa says

    I am very allergic to soy, with a very specific reaction that differs from my other allergies. It has been difficult to find the soy in my diet recently. I do my own cooking and usually eat very plain foods with nothing in them, but I have been using canned milk that doesn’t list soy, as others do. After looking up one of the E ingredients(E322), I found that it is lecithin, and most likely soy. I am certain that this is the source of my recent problems. It angers me to see sources saying that soy lecithin and soy oil do not affect people with soy allergy. They do. It is also frustrating that most milk products are having soy added to them (canned milk and powdered milk). I drink fresh milk, but I like to use stronger milk as a sweetener. I’ve even come across cheese with soy, which I never would have expected. Even makeups are switching ingredients to soy. I all of a sudden have a reaction, and find they have changed their formulae. I have contacted several companies, but unless other people do to, it feels hopeless that things will get safer.

  45. Diana says

    I tried skimming through all these comments, FIRST, to see if my question was addressed, but I did not see it – so please forgive me if it was discussed already .

    I’d like to know if there are ANY soy products that are ‘safe’ to eat – in quantity – BESIDES organic? The main reason is – I was told – (BEFORE I knew about the ‘dangers’ of soy) that drinking soy milk, using soy flour, taking soy supplements, etc., is very helpful for women in peri and pre-menopause, and those in menopause, etc., to minimize symptoms and help with balance. Once I heard about soy being ‘bad’ for certain people (including those with a Thyroid issue), I stopped using it. What can you, Mr. Kresser tell me about this – and would you please respond to my e-mail? Thank you.

  46. Laura says

    Hi all. Like a couple of other posts I am a breastfeeding mother who is having issues with recurrent blocked milk ducts. Lecithin supplements are recommended to prevent clogged ducts but the advised dosage is 3600-4800mg daily. I am right in thinking Chris’ article suggests this is not safe? I really want to crack this problem as blockage after blockage is soul destroying but don’t want to put either my own or my baby’s health at risk. If I can’t resolve the issue I think I will have to give up breastfeeding. Chris – are you still reading / responding to posts? Would you be able to offer any advice?

  47. lina says

    Wish I could find a diet like Nutrisystem that used whey-based products and not soy. I am an estrogen-positive breast cancer survivor and am quite overweight, and due to back issues cannot exercise. I do not cook and so would love to utilize one of those “meals already prepared” diets, but I cannot find any that are not soy based or that aren’t heavy in soy-bean oil.

    If anyone is aware of a meals-delivered diet company that has a good concentration of soy-free products, please let me know! I am desperate to get this weight off because I know my chances for survival are much better if I do.

  48. Laura W says

    Question: If eating Paleo is supposed to be so uber-healthy, why aren’t there any caveman running around? I mean, other than the 2 who did those Geico commercials & had a very short lived sitcom on NBC (I think..don’t quote me on the network) about 10 years or so ago?
    I’m just sayin’, lol.

  49. Pete says

    I took soy lecithin for a month, and when I went for a cholesterol check up i was OFF THE CHART in terms of good to bad ratio. I had so much good cholesterol the doc told me to keep doing whatever the hell I was doing.
    I stopped taking it due to some research suggesting it would mishape blood cells, but im thinking low dose lecethin supplementation could be a good thing?

  50. Deb K says

    I take soy lecithin daily. From day one, I noticed improvement in my short term memory. I am worried a little about the estrogen effect but so far I have no problem.

  51. Carolyn Hill says

    The two latest comments about soy lecithin are interesting but when mentioning sources of lecithin fail to mention sunflower lecithin: perfect choice for those who may have problems with soy lecithin.

  52. Bumble says

    All the formulas which is given to newborns as well come with soy lecithin as an emulsifier. Isn’t this dangerous ?

  53. Jenifer says

    Bumble, I think it’s clear from what Chris has written, that soy lecithin is not something to be concerned about. I assume this would also apply to infant formula.

    Carolyn, from what I can glean, soy lecithin is much higher in phosphatides than sunflower lecithin. I believe the concerns of the soy source are overblown. According to Carlson Wade, author of Lecithin Book, What You Need to Know, published 1980, the best lecithin is pure lecithin granules which contain over 95 percent phosphatides and about 2 percent soybean oil.

    There’s a lot of good info on lecithin at Earth Clinic. http://www.earthclinic.com/Supplements/lecithin.html
    Apparently it’s the only thing that can detox hydrocarbons that build up in the body.

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