What’s soy lecithin?

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Soy lecithin is a common food additive that serves as an emulsifying and wetting agent, among other purposes. It is safe for human consumption, but concerns exist about its potential pesticide and solvent content and use of unfermented soybeans. It is also used in animal feed, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.

Soy lecithin is a common additive used in foods. It serves as an emulsifying agent, preventing the ingredients from separating. It can also serve as a wetting agent, a coating base, a mixing aid, and many other purposes.

When used in food products, soy lecithin is found in very small amounts. The typical component of the compound within a food product is one percent of the weight of the product. It is often used to thin sweets and reduce the stickiness of food ingredients. It can increase volume and shelf life, help ingredients mix cohesively, reduce potential spraying of batter during cooking, and improve food texture.

In candy bars, for example, soy lecithin holds the chocolate and cocoa butter together, preventing a natural separation from occurring. It works the same way in foods like peanut butter, ice cream, and margarine, where the fats and waters would normally separate. In breads, it can help improve texture and size during baking.

Although many people believe that there are many dangers of soy lecithin, the product has been found to be non-toxic and safe for human consumption. Some people are concerned that as a by-product of soy, it contains pesticides and solvents, such as the hexane used to produce the product, that could be harmful when ingested. Many sources of the soybeans used to produce lecithin are genetically modified, which also concerns many people. The use of unfermented soybeans is also a potential concern, as it has been linked to health problems, such as reproductive problems and allergies.

Other people, however, use lecithin as a health supplement. High in choline, the compound may help encourage healthy brain development and heart health. Soy lecithin may also help prevent dementia and other conditions, such as high cholesterol, gallstones, cirrhosis of the liver, and psoriasis.

The use of soy lecithin may cause some side effects. Low blood pressure may result from taking the supplement. Other side effects of lecithin include dizziness and fainting. When taking the cholesterol-fighting compound, it may be improved by simultaneously taking a niacin supplement.

Outside of the food industry, soy lecithin has many other uses. In animal feed, it serves as a cheap source of protein. It is used in the pharmaceutical industry to create medicines. Lecithin can also be used in the manufacture of paints, plastics, and other household items. In cosmetics, lecithins are often used to soften the skin and help skin cells absorb pigments.

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