Viral Hepatitis and Lecithin
Lecithin contains a substance called phosphatidylcholine (PC). In Europe, phosphatidylcholine is also used to treat liver diseases, such as alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, and viral hepatitis.PC may enhance the effect of interferon treatment in people with chronic hepatitis C.
Effect of Lecithin on Viral Hepatitis
Lecithin contains a substance called phosphatidylcholine (PC) that is presumed to be responsible for its medicinal effects. Research has shown that PC enhanced the effect of interferon in people with chronic hepatitis C, but not in those with chronic hepatitis B.
Phosphatidylcholine is a major part of the membranes surrounding our cells. However, when you consume this substance it is broken down into the nutrient choline rather than being carried directly to cell membranes. Choline acts like folate, TMG (trimethylglycine), and SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) to promote methylation.
Research Evidence on Lecithin
In one double-blind study, it enhanced the effect of interferon in people with chronic hepatitis C, but not in those with chronic hepatitis B.50 However, in an open study phosphatidylcholine failed to produce improvements in individuals with acute hepatitis.51
How to Use Lecithin
Ordinary lecithin contains about 10% to 20% phosphatidylcholine. However, European research has tended to use products concentrated to contain 90% phosphatidylcholine in lecithin, and the following dosages are based on that type of product. For liver disease, a typical dose is 350 to 500 mg taken three times daily.
Types of Professionals That Would Be Involved with This Treatment
- Naturopathic doctor
- Integrative MD
- Nutritionist or dietitian
Side Effects and Warnings
Lecithin is believed to be generally safe. However, some people taking high dosages (several grams daily) experience minor but annoying side effects, such as abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and nausea. Maximum safe dosages for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease have not been determined.
Also, because lecithin is typically derived from soy, people with soy allergies may want to avoid it.
- Niederau C, Strohmeyer G, Heintges T, et al. Polyunsaturated phosphatidyl-choline and interferon alpha for treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C: a multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Leich Study Group. Hepatogastroenterology. 1998;45:797-804.
- Guan R, Ho KY, Kang JY, et al. The effect of polyunsaturated phosphatidyl choline in the treatment of acute viral hepatitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1995;9:699-703.