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Can soy lecithin be causing your headaches?

For anyone that has taken the time to read their food labels, there is a great chance that your eyes came across ‘soy lecithin’ as a common ingredient. Lecithin is a food additive that is used to emulsify or lubricate food. A common source of lecithin is from soy, hence the name ‘soy lecithin’.

Not only is it a popular food additive it is also sold as a health supplement to treat memory disorders such as dementia and is even stated to. lower cholesterol. This may be surprising considering the point of this article is to identify it as an ingredient to be wary of.

Why is Soy Lecithin bad then?

The truth remains that though soy lecithin may have some benefits, it also comes with its cons. This has made it one of the confusing food additives on the market. It improves the functionality of the brain, curtails cholesterol level and others.

Some of the side effects that stem from the consumption of soy lecithin, whether in your food or as a supplement are:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain

These side effects usually do not come directly from the soy lecithin, but how it is extracted from soybeans. For soy lecithin to be removed from soybeans, a solvent called, hexane has to be used. Hexane has been used for a long time in removing oil from vegetables and seeds for a long time.

When hexane is used to extract the soy lecithin, it usually goes through many steps, and sometimes, residues from the hexane may remain. Currently, FDA does not have a regulation in place for the residue of hexane. This means that it is quite hard for us to know what level of hexane is contained in the soy lecithin. Hexane is partly the reason for the resulting health issues.

That’s not all. Hexane is used in the printing world as a cleaning agent or in varnishes and glues. This isn’t something I would want to eat.

Soy lecithin can also be from genetically modified (GMO) soy. Ingredients from GMO plants are not favorable due to the manual intervention to change the DNA of the plant, often to satisfy a commercial need.


Soy lecithin is added to foods to protect the flavor. It has over a dozen other uses including being used as an emulsifier, wetting agent, and crystallization control. These features help greatly with keeping processed foods as fresh as possible after being stored for several weeks on shelves.

Which foods are soy lecithin commonly found in?

Due to the helpful uses of soy lecithin such as being a wonderful emulsifier, you can find it in a myriad of products like:

  • Cooking spray
  • Infant formula
  • Store bought sauces such as teriyaki sauce
  • Stews
  • Canned meats
  • Bread crumbs and crackers
  • Frozen treats
  • Pet food
  • Cosmetics
  • Soaps

The uses of soy lecithin are endless. The point is that since it can be in virtually any product you should read the label to check for it. If you are trying to avoid GMO ingredients, you should avoid soy leciuthin even if it is stated as organic.

How Can You Recognize It on labels?

Finding if your food product has soy lecithin is quite easy as it is written on the product as soy lecithin.

Is soy lecithin bad for you