Is Soya Lecithin Gluten Free?

Soy, or soya, lecithin is a gluten-free food because it is not made from wheat, rye or barley. While soy lecithin by itself does not contain gluten, additives to lecithin may contain gluten. Consumers must do their own research into ingredients and gluten content, which can sometimes be confusing.

Lecithin is a common ingredient in products ranging from cosmetics to baked goods. (Image: Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

FDA Definition of Soya Lecithin

Lecithin is derived from many different plant sources, including soy, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. Lecithin often comes in a dry, grainy form and is used as an emulsifier, stabilizer, dispersing aid, incidental additive and as a release agent for baked goods. Lecithin is used in small amounts and rarely exceeding 1 percent by weight of the final food product, according to the FDA. Lecithin is also marketed as a nutritional supplement. U.S.Code 321 defines soy as one of the eight major food allergens, and thus any product containing soy must be labeled with a warning.

Gluten Intolerance

The FDA has posted guidelines for the use of "gluten-free" labeling. To be "gluten-free" by FDA standards, foods must not contain any wheat, rye, barley or any hybrids with those grains. Many individuals have gluten intolerance or celiac disease, which causes inflammatory cells and antibodies to be produced when gluten is consumed. Due to these sensitivities, it is important that those with gluten intolerance know which products contain gluten so as to avoid them. The FDA does not currently require the labeling of products as to their gluten content, thus any "gluten-free" labeling is voluntary at this time.

Soya Lecithin is Gluten-Free

Due to the fact that soya lecithin is made from soy, not wheat, barley or rye, it is considered "gluten-free" by FDA standards. The UCCDC has posted a list of gluten-free foods and food additives on its website. Soy, soybeans and tofu are all listed as gluten-free on the UCCDC site. Lecithin is listed as a gluten-free food additive on the UCCDC site as well. Gelatin used in lecithin supplement capsules is also gluten-free, according to the UCCDC list.

Soya Lecithin Nutritional Supplements

Soy lecithin nutritional supplements are marketed as a natural source of choline and inositol for a variety of purposes such as improving cardiovascular health and supporting brain and nerve function. Some lecithin supplements contain additional ingredients such as gelatin and vegetable glycerin. Products with additional ingredients should be labeled as gluten-free for use by those with gluten intolerance.

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