Skip to main content

Lecithin/Phosphatidyl Choline


When medical researchers use the term “lecithin,” they are referring to a purified substance called phosphatidyl choline (PC) that belongs to a special category of fat-soluble substances called phospholipids.

What Are Star Ratings?

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
2 Stars
Birth Defects
500 mg choline per day
Choline appears to protect against neural tube defects when taken prior to and early in pregnancy, as it has similar biochemical effects as folic acid.
In a preliminary study of California mothers, those who had higher intakes of during the three months prior to conception were significantly less likely to give birth to a child with an NTD, compared with women with lower choline intakes. The possibility that choline may protect against NTDs is plausible, as choline has similar biochemical effects as folic acid, which is known to reduce NTD risk.
2 Stars
High Cholesterol
500 mg per day
Taking lecithin supplements may be a useful way to lower cholesterol.
is a phospholipid-rich compound from plants that often contains large amounts of phosphatidylcholine. Soy-derived lecithin is widely used in the food industry as an emulsifier. Some research shows lecithin from plant oils, such as soy and sunflower oils, may reduce cholesterol levels by decreasing absorption and increasing excretion of cholesterol. In a placebo-controlled trial in 30 people with high cholesterol levels, those given 500 mg of soy lecithin daily had a 42% reduction in total and 56% reduction in LDL-cholesterol levels while those given placebo had no significant reductions in cholesterol levels after two months. However, another placebo-controlled trial in 20 men with high cholesterol levels found 20 grams of lecithin daily for four weeks had no impact on cholesterol levels.
2 Stars
High Homocysteine
2 grams daily choline or 34 grams daily lecithin
Choline has been shown to lower homocysteine levels.

Betaine (trimethylglycine) (6 grams per day) and (2 grams per day) have each been shown to lower homocysteine levels. Choline in the amount of 2.6 grams per day (provided as 34 grams per day of soy lecithin) has also been shown to lower homocysteine levels in a double-blind trial. More recently, 1.5 grams of betaine per day, an amount similar to that in a typical diet, also has been found to lower homocysteine levels. Doctors usually consider supplementation with these nutrients only when supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 do not reduce homocysteine levels sufficiently. The results of this study, however, point to the potential benefit of increasing one’s intake of foods rich in betaine (such as whole wheat, spinach, beets, and other plant foods).

2 Stars
Tardive Dyskinesia
25 grams lecithin twice a day, providing 35 grams of phosphatidyl choline per day
Lecithin and phosphatidyl choline may help improve symptoms.

and have both been used for people with TD. While some studies have shown a beneficial effect, others have reported variable improvement or no improvement. In a small, two-week, double-blind trial, people with TD were given 25 grams of lecithin twice a day (providing 35 grams of phosphatidyl choline per day), or a matching placebo. All participants experienced significant improvement of symptoms.

1 Star
Alzheimer’s Disease
Refer to label instructions
Weak evidence suggests that moderate amounts of lecithin, a fat used by the body to build membranes that may be obtained through food sources, may slightly improve symptoms.

A double-blind trial of 20 to 25 grams per day of failed to produce improvements in mental function in people with Alzheimer’s disease. However, there were improvements in a subgroup of people who did not fully comply with the program, suggesting that lower amounts of lecithin may possibly be helpful. Lecithin supplementation has also been studied in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor drug called tacrine, with predominantly negative results.

1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Phosphatidylcholine (PC)—a purified extract from lecithin—is a component of bile that helps protect against gallstones. Supplementing with it may help dissolve gallstones

(PC)—a purified extract from —is one of the components of bile that helps protect against gallstone formation. Some preliminary studies suggest that 300–2,000 mg per day of PC may help dissolve gallstones. Some doctors suggest PC supplements as part of gallstone treatment, though the supporting research is weak.

1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Taking phosphatidylcholine (found in lecithin) was found to be beneficial in one study of people with chronic hepatitis B.

Taking 3 grams per day of (found in lecithin) was found to be beneficial in one investigation of people with chronic hepatitis B. Signs of liver damage on biopsy were significantly reduced in this trial.

How It Works

How to Use It

Small amounts of choline are present in many B-complex and multivitamin supplements.

Where to Find It

Choline, the major constituent of PC, is found in soybeans, liver, oatmeal, cabbage, and cauliflower. Soybeans, egg yolks, meat, and some vegetables contain PC. Lecithin (containing 10–20% PC) is added to many processed foods in small amounts for the purpose of maintaining texture consistency.

Possible Deficiencies

Although choline deficiencies have been artificially induced in people, little is known about human deficiency in the real world.

Best Form to Take

Commercially available forms of choline include choline chloride and choline bitartrate. There is no clear evidence that choline chloride is more effective than choline bitartrate as a supplement, or vice versa.1

Phosphatidylcholine and lecithin (which contains phosphatidylcholine) are also sources of choline. Taking lecithin has been shown to produce relatively greater and more sustained levels of choline than choline itself. However, choline makes up only a certain percentage of both lecithin and phosphatidylcholine, so relatively large amounts of these substances are needed to deliver therapeutic amounts of choline.2


Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

The body uses both PC and pantothenic acid to form acetylcholine.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Side Effects

With several grams of choline per day, some people will experience abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, or nausea. Supplementing choline in large amounts (over 1,000 mg per day) can lead to a fishy body odor. PC does not have this effect. Depression has been reported as a side effect in people taking large amounts of choline, such as 9 grams per day.


1. Gaby, AR. Nutritional Medicine. Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing, 2011.

2. Gaby, AR. Nutritional Medicine. Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing, 2011.

Next Section:

How It Works

PeaceHealth endeavors to provide comprehensive health care information, however some topics in this database describe services and procedures not offered by our providers or within our facilities because they do not comply with, nor are they condoned by, the ethics policies of our organization.