Today you can find additives labeled E in almost any product. Sometimes they are perfectly safe compounds, while in other cases they pose a health hazard. Under the code E322 there is an emulsifier called lecithin.
What is it?
In 1850, the Frenchman Maurice Bobli obtained a lipid compound from the brain and egg yolk; he called it lecithin. In general, egg yolk is the first source of lecithin known to mankind.
90 years later, plant lecithin was synthesized — from soybeans, called essential phospholipids. The chemical formula of this substance is an ester of glycerophosphoric acid with a very complex composition.
Later, the emulsifying properties of lecithin were discovered, which made the compound very popular in a variety of industries.
The emulsifier breaks down fats into tiny droplets, which helps them to be better assimilated. It also makes lecithin a surface-active agent. This means it is active at the boundary of two different substances.
If two immiscible liquids are combined, lecithin becomes an emulsifier; if liquid and solid, it serves as a wetting agent; if the two phases are solid, it aids in lubrication and release (non-stickiness to molds).
Which raw material is used to produce the emulsifier lecithin?
It is a by-product of refining sunflower, soybean, rapeseed, linseed, cotton oils and fats of egg yolk, beef, fish oil in the process of their refining.
The main types of raw materials and methods of processing:
- Unrefined sunflower oils — it is extracted with acetone. Sunflower lecithin has more fatty acids.
- Soybeans — purified at very low temperatures to produce the most common emulsifier of the food industry.
- Egg yolks — also extracted with acetone at low temperatures and repeatedly purified with ethanol and acetone. This type of lecithin is the most expensive and is used in the production of high-end cosmetics, medicines, dietary supplements.
What kinds are available?
There are three types of lecithin:
- liquid (standard);
- Fractionated (different types — liquid, paste, granules);
- Non-fat (powder, granules).
E322 is divided into two groups according to the method of production:
- E322 I is a byproduct of the refining of vegetable oils. It is a liquid (homogeneous viscous liquid), defatted (pellets and powder), fractionated (homogeneous viscous liquid, paste, powder, pellets) substance.
- Lecithin E322 II — obtained by hydrolysis with enzymes (homogeneous viscous liquid) or skimmed hydrolysis (powder, granules). It has more phospholipids.
- What are the designations in its composition?
- E322 is a substance of plant origin. The most common is soy lecithin.
What is it added for and where is it used?
The main area of application is the food industry. Lecithin is present in 95% of products. It prevents fats from crystallizing and extends the shelf life.
The additive is used in all confectionary products such as waffles, candies, cakes, ice cream, etc., as well as chocolate. Lecithin makes chocolate paste viscous, dense, reduces the caloric content. Filling chocolate in moulds does not lead to cavities, the coating is dense and does not «float».
In the composition of any bread and rolls, it improves the plasticity of dough, strengthens the gluten, allows the dough does not stick to the molds and remove well from it.
E322 is also a component of cocoa powder, powdered milk (they dissolve better with it), condensed milk, refined vegetable oils (except olive oil), pasta (except durum wheat), food colorings, stock cubes, instant soups, breakfast cereals, margarines. In fact, thanks to lecithin is only possible to get spreads and margarines.
E322 is even approved for baby food, formula, and complementary foods. Lecithin is not permitted for daily use.
E322 is widely used in decorative cosmetics, creams, hair products (shampoos, conditioners, serums, masks, dyes). It makes it possible to mix water and fat particles to a homogeneous mixture.
The active ingredient in face creams nourishes the skin. Some substances are unable to cross the epidermal barrier on their own, so they are combined with microcapsules of lecithin. Then they easily penetrate deep into the skin.
In the chemical industry
Lecithin is used in vinyl coatings, fat-soluble paints and solvents. It is also used for paper processing, making fertilizers, pesticides, explosives, even in the creation of ink.
Lecithin is the active ingredient in hepatoprotectors. For example, in the preparations «Essenciale Forte», «Essenciale N», a number of dietary supplements.
Benefits and harms
In terms of its effect on health, E322 is classified as low-hazard (class 4). Its harm has not been clinically proven. Lecithin is so little present in products that no cases of overdose have ever been registered.
Lecithin’s benefits are enormous — remember, for example, that it is part of cell membranes. Lecithin makes up half of human liver and a third of brain.
Studies are quite expensive and up to now have only been conducted on animals — pigs, rats, mice and other laboratory specimens.
With regard to humans, it is known only that the use of GMO products can cause immune system disorders and exhibit carcinogenicity, increase the risk of thyroid abnormalities.
95% of soy production in many countries is genetically modified. This is cheap for the industry, but not very useful for humans.
Manufacturers of good dietary supplements include high quality non-GMO soy in their products. The problem is that not all manufacturers do the same. This increases the price of the product and reduces profits.
Soy is harmful because it contains isoflavones, similar to estrogens. If you consume it regularly, you can get an overabundance of them, which is bad for the male body, for example. Especially for boys, who are still developing their reproductive system. It is also not safe for pregnant women, because it has a negative impact on the development of the fetal brain.
Another study: feeding GMO soy to pigs increased their development of inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases compared to a control group that did not receive GMO soy.
Sunflower lecithin is hypoallergenic. It contains more important fats for the human body (oleic, arachidonic, palmitic, stearic), phosphatidylcholine and choline. The Institute of Biochemistry of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences also studied sunflower lecithin and proved that its phospholipids can work as hepatoprotectors.
Soybeans lag far behind in this respect. Importantly, sunflowers are never GMOs. The conclusion is that sunflower lecithin is more useful.
The E322 additive is approved almost everywhere. It’s up to you whether or not to use products containing it. The main thing is to do everything in moderation, and then the harm will be minimized.