by dietary changes or were due to the linoleicacid present in lecithin.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled crossoverstudyin11outpatientswithAlzheimer’sdiseasefound that lecithin 10g three times a day for3months was associated with an improvementin tests of learning ability, but there was noimprovement in any of the psychological testsused.
Two further double-blind studies (one inpatients with Alzheimer’s disease,
one innormal adults
) showed no effect of lecithin onmemory.Another double-blind RCT in 53 subjectswith probable Alzheimer’s disease involved theuse of lecithin and tacrine or lecithin andplacebo for 36weeks. No clinically relevantimprovement was found in any of the groupsover 36weeks.
A Cochrane review investigating the efﬁcacyof lecithin in the treatment of dementia orcognitive impairment found 12 RCTs involvingpatientswithAlzheimer’sdisease(265patients),Parkinsonian dementia (21 patients) and sub-jective memory problems (90 patients). Notrials reported any clear beneﬁt of Alzheimer’sdisease or Parkinsonian dementia. A dramaticresult in favour of lecithin was obtained ina trial of subjects with subjective memoryproblems. The authors concluded that evidencefrom randomised trials does not support theuse of lecithin in the treatment of dementia.A moderate effect could not be ruled out, butthey concluded that results from the small trialsto date do not indicate priority for a largerandomised trial.
Controlled clinical trials have provided noevidence that lecithin lowers cholesterol orhelps to improve memory in patients withAlzheimer’s disease. Claims for the valueof lecithin in lowering blood pressure andalso in hepatitis, gallstones, psoriasis andeczema are unsubstantiated. Further trialsare needed to assess the role of lecithin.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding
No problems have been reported, but therehave not been sufﬁcient studies to guaranteethe safety of lecithin (in amounts greater thanthose found in foods) in pregnancy and breast-feeding.
Lecithin is available in the form of tablets,capsulesandpowder.Lecithinsupplementspro-vide between 20 and 90% phosphatidylcholine(depending on the product).The dose is not established. On currentevidence, lecithin is unlikely to be useful. Prod-uct manufacturers recommend 1200–2400mgdaily.
1 Simons LA, Hickie JB, Ruys J. Treatment of hyper-cholesterolaemia with oral lecithin.
Aust NZ J Med
1977; 7: 262–266.2 Oosthuizen W, Vorster HH, Vermaak WJ,
.Lecithin has no effect on serum lipoprotein, plasmaﬁbrinogen and macromolecular protein complexlevels in hyperlipidaemic men in a double-blindcontrolled study.
Eur J Clin Nutr
1998; 52:419–424.3 KnuimanJT,BeynenAC,KatanMB.Lecithinintakeand serum cholesterol.
Am J Clin Nutr
1989; 49:266–268.4 Etienne P, Dastoor D, Gauthier S,
. Alzheimerdisease: lack of effect of lecithin treatment for 3months.
1981; 31: 1552–1554.5 Brinkman SD, Smith RC, Meyer JS,
. Lecithinand memory training in suspected Alzheimer’s dis-ease.
1982; 37: 4–9.