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Lecithin

Commercial Importance

Commercial lecithin is actually a mixture of lecithin, other related phospholipids and oil. Due to its ability to break up fat and oil globules and its antioxidant properties, lecithin extracted from soy beans is important commercially for processing food and other products. In food it aids in the mixing of vegetable oils, butters, and other fatty ingredients so that they are uniformly distributed throughout the product. Without lecithin these ingredients tend to separate out. A familiar example is the separation of fat out of chocolate, leaving a light oily film on the surface. Lecithin stabilizes oils against oxidation during processing, resulting in better flavor and longer shelf life. Lecithin is also used in the manufacture of paints, dyes, inks, leather goods, plastics, cosmetics, textiles, and pharmaceutical products, among others.

Resources

Periodicals

Bretscher, Mark S. "The Molecules of the Cell Membrane." Scientific American (October 1985): 100-08.

Canty, David J., and Steven H. Zeisel. "Lecithin and Choline in Human Health and Disease." Nutrition Reviews, 52, (1994): 327.

Delaney, Lisa, and Cemela London. "Dictionary of Healing Techniques and Remedies-part 35." Prevention, 44, (February 1992): 135.


Patricia V. Racenis

KEY TERMS

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Lipid

—Any fatty substance which tends not to dissolve in water but instead dissolves in relatively nonpolar organic solvents.

Phospholipid

—A lipid which contains a phosphate group.

Saturated

—Containing a single bond between the carbon atoms in a chain.

Unsaturated

—Containing multiple bonds between the carbon atoms in a chain. Unsaturated fatty acids contain at least one double bond between two carbon atoms.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Laser - Background And History to Linear equationLecithin - Structure And Properties, Dietary And Commercial Sources, Role In Health And Disease, Commercial Importance