Synonyms of Lecithin

Vitellin, Lecithol, Phosphatidylcholine

Biological Source Of Lecithin

Commercial lecithin consists of acetone-insoluble phosphates of phosphatidyl choline, phosphatidyl ethanolamine (Cephalin), phosphatidyl serine and triglycerides, fatty acids. It should contain not less than 50.0% of acetone insoluble matter.

Structure of Lecithin

It is mainly obtained from soybean-oil. It is also available in several vegetable seeds egg-volk corn and from of animal brain and nervous tissue.


Lecithins are waxy, white substances and become brown on exposure to air may also be thick pourable fluid depending upon acid value, characteristic in smell, insoluble in acetone and soluble in other organic solvents. It swells in water forming colloidal solution, soluble in mineral oils and fatty acids. Lecithin decomposes on heating.

Properties of Lecithin

When treated with sulphuric acid, choline separates forming phosphatidic acid. If boiled with alkalies or acids glycerophosphoric acid, choline and fatty acids are formed.

Chemical Nature Lecithin

Chemically, lecithin contains, glycerol, fatty acids, phosphoric acid and choline. Normally lecithins contain a saturated fatty acid at a-position and an unsaturated fatty acid at B-position

Uses of Lecithin

With the combination of proteins it forms lipoproteins of plasma and cells: acetylcholine formed from choline part has very important role in transmission of nervous impulses across the synapses. It is very important lipotropic agent and can prevent formations of fatty liver. lowers the surface tension of lung alveoli.

It is an emulsifying agent of natural origin, dispersing agent, wetting agent, penetrating agent and also an antioxidant. It is used in the manufacture of cosmetics, soaps, candies, chocolates. It is industrially used as lubricant for textile fibres, petroleum industry and printing inks.