Q: "I have been working on getting my cholesterol down and a friend advised me to take lecithin. I have been taking capsules (made from natural soybean) which have 1200mg of lecithin in them and I take four a day, but the dose on the bottle is six! Is it a good idea to take lecithin for cholesterol or is it a waste of money?"Marion
A: Nutritionist Amanda Johnson responds:
"Firstly, if you are concerned about your cholesterol levels and haven't been tested, I'd recommend you consult your GP as if the level is high, prescription medication may be necessary.
In terms of lecithin, this is a phospholipid, or a type of fat. It is used by the food industry as an emulsifying agent, and is isolated from egg yolk or soybeans. There all sorts of claims for lecithin, for example it has been suggested that taking lecithin can cure or prevent arthritis, skin problems, gallstones and nervous disorders. There is no scientific evidence that lecithin has these beneficial effects. It has also been suggested that lecithin may reduce blood cholesterol levels, however there is limited research in this area and results are conflicting. I am not aware of any good quality scientific evidence to support the use of lecithin supplements and these are not something I would recommend.
The main dietary factor that influences blood cholesterol levels is saturated fatty acids, found in foods such as milk, cream, cheese, meat fat, palm oil and coconut oil as well as in pies, biscuits, cakes and pastries. Trans fats, found in hard margarines and some processed foods such as cakes, biscuits and pastries also increase blood cholesterol levels. To reduce your cholesterol level by altering your diet I'd suggest cutting down on fat intake and particularly on saturated fatty acids and trans fats; for example, choose lean meat and lower fat dairy products, limit intakes of pies and pastries and avoid adding fat to food where possible. It might also be useful to increase your intake of soluble fibre found in oats, fruits and vegetables."