Firstly…what is Lecithin?
Lecithin is a phospholipid compound present in cell structures that is essential for metabolism and cellular health. It is mainly made up of glycerol, fatty acids, a phosphate group and choline. Also known as phosphatidylcholine, lecithin is generically used to describe the yellowish or brown fatty substances that is naturally present in some animals and plant tissues such as:
- Egg yolk
- Sunflower seeds
- Animal Liver and Kidney
How about Soy Lecithin?
You may also have heard of soy lecithin which is a common additive in some pet food and treats. However, as much as we have heard of how soy is healthy for us humans, it is better to avoid soy lecithin for your pets. Why is this so? The majority of soy production in the world runs the risks of being genetically-modified. In fact, soy production in USA is >90% GMO (no thanks to Monsanto) and they carry reported risks of contamination and elevated estrogen levels in humans. If it is bad for us, it is highly unlikely to be any good for animals. Unfortunately, such GMO soy products may be widely used as animal feed, so if you consume meat, you may not be free from such risks.
Sunflower lecithin, on the other hand, is the only lecithin that is available chemical-free and raw. It is made by dehydrating a sunflower and separating it into three parts: oil, gum, and solids. The lecithin comes from the gum and then processed through a cold press system like the one used to make olive oil, therefore making it more expensive than its soy counterpart. Unlike soy lecithin, extraction of sunflower lecithin doesn’t require chemical solvents such as acetone and hexane which means less concerns with safety.
Sunflower Lecithin Benefits
1. Strengthens the Nervous System
Each nerve cell or neuron is covered with a protective layer of fat known as the myelin sheath which helps insulate the current as well as increase the speed of the current passing through
Most importantly for aging dogs, choline in sunflower lecithin produces the major nerve transmitter, acetylcholine, which essentially makes possible the transmission of nerve impulses.
In the event of myelin sheath damage, the neuron is unable to transmit the message or signal to the brain as efficiently as before. Fatty acids present in sunflower lecithin help in maintaining the myelin sheath so that the nerve impulses can efficiently travel to the brain.
2. It’s Great for the Heart !
Sunflower lecithin contains linoleic acid which emulsifies as well as breaks down fats. This means adding even the smallest amount of sunflower lecithin into your diet can easily help in decreasing cholesterol levels.
3. Promotes Bone and Joint Health
The fatty acids present in sunflower lecithin are rich in choline which is used by almost every cell in the body and is a key component of cell membrane. It also helps rebuild bone tissue and protect it.
According to the Lipids in Health and Disease journal, lecithin is a part of the viscous fluid that lubricates the joints essential for fluid movements.
4. Excellent for Liver Health
For dogs, sunflower lecithin may prevent fatty liver syndrome and support normal liver function due to its choline properties. Without adequate phosphatidylcholine, fat and cholesterol accumulate in the liver due to reduced low density lipoprotein levels.
5. Acts as an Antioxidant
Antioxidants play a key role in keeping our cells healthy, and sunflower lecithin contains one of the most powerful antioxidants named phosphatidylcholine. Such an abundance of antioxidants in your system helps in preventing cellular damage due to oxidative stress. Such long-term damage can lead to cancer and heart diseases.
Antioxidants are important for good skin so it is recommended for old dogs to aid in skin flakiness.
6. Treats Canine Cognitive Disorder (CCD)
Regular sunflower lecithin supplementation may help prevent or treat canine cognitive disorder (doggie Alzheimer’s disease) due to the presence of choline. In clinical practice, choline is mostly prescribed for older dogs to reduce the incidence of cognitive disorder, or to treat dogs with existing cognitive disorder.
Lecithin is also used to stimulate memory and learning function. There are reports of dog trainers who use lecithin supplementation before a training session help dogs remember commands more effectively.
What is a Safe Dosage?
I started my dogs on sunflower lecithin because one of them was exhibiting signs of CCD and I decided to add it for my other dogs for general good health. Currently this is what I use:
Now Foods Sunflower Lecithin (choline) (454g ) powder supplement from iherb.com
- Small Animals – Add a good pinch to every meal, mix in
- Small Dogs- 1 -2 teaspoons to every meal, mx in
- Medium to Big Dogs- 1-2 tablespoons to every meal, mix in
Are there any side effects?
Sunflower lecithin appears to be safe for most normal dogs (and humans). Typical side effects of lecithin include vomiting, diarrhoea, bloating, diminished appetite, and skin rashes.
While sunflower lecithin is a overall great supplement (and affordable) for both humans and pets, we at Four Paws Bureau always encourage everyone to consult your vet before supplementing your pet’s diet!