Atherosclerosis occurs when a fatty material known as plaque accumulates along the walls of the blood vessels and eventually blocks them. The condition usually affects medium and large arteries but the symptoms depend on the extent of the blockage and the arteries involved. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, alcohol and smoking increase the risk of atherosclerosis. Your doctor may prescribe medications and surgery to treat the condition along with a healthy diet and exercise. Certain natural foods and supplements may also help prevent atherosclerosis.
Lecithin is a phospholipid, a type of fat containing phosphorus and nitrogen. It is found in almost all living cells and can be obtained from foods such as steak, peanuts, beefy liver, eggs, cauliflower and oranges. Lecithin supplements are also available as capsules, tablets and powder, and your doctor may recommend them to treat a variety of conditions including neurological problems, liver problems and hypercholesterolemia. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recommends 500 to 900 mg of lecithin supplements, three times a day to lower cholesterol levels in the blood, which may in turn prevent plaque formation. The dose may vary based on your age and overall health and the condition being treated; your doctor will determine the one that is right for you.
The Lecithin-Atherosclerosis Connection
Lecithin is a powerful emulsifier that helps dissolve fat particles and control triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the blood, according to Dr. Linda Page, author of the book "Linda Page's Healthy Healing." Lecithin also reduces the levels of bad cholesterol and enhances the levels of good cholesterol in the blood, Page says. The website Drugs.com also reports that lecithin promotes the metabolism of cholesterol in the digestive tract and thereby helps control or prevent atherosclerosis. Nutritional Consultant Phyllis A. Balch reaffirms in the book "Prescription for Herbal Healing" that lecithin can reduce blood-cholesterol levels by attracting cholesterol and transporting it to liver where it is broken down.
Lecithin supplements are generally safe to use, although gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, anorexia and increased salivation may sometimes occur. There are very few scientific studies with regards to toxicology, drug interactions and contraindications of lecithin. The safety and efficacy in pregnant and lactating women has not been studied.
Although lecithin supplements are readily available without prescription, it is best to talk to a doctor before using them to treat atherosclerosis. Inform your doctor about any pre-existing conditions or other medications you might be taking. Also, the FDA does not regulate some lecithin supplements. Your pharmacist may help find a product that is right for you.