Lecithin is a coproduct of degumming soybean oil. After processing, it is available in powder, granules, or liquid form and have different properties depending on their composition and method of production. Lecithin has many functional properties as an emulsifier, antioxidant, lubricant, anti-dusting agent, mixing and blending agent, and wetting and separating agent. Lecithin plays a vital role in human cell function and is believed to aid in liver function, cardiovascular health, physical and athletic performance, and fetal development, and may increase brain capacity and improve memory. It has multiple uses in foods and beverages, animal feed, health and nutrition products, cosmetics, and industrial coatings. For the majority of these uses, relatively small amounts (0.1% to 2%) of the lecithin are needed.
For edible applications, soy lecithin is normally added to such food products as shortenings, margarines, baked goods, chocolate, confectionery coatings, peanut butter, powder mixes, and dietary food. It serves as an emulsifier in products high in fats and oils. It also promotes stabilization, antioxidation, crystallization and spattering control.
Large amounts of soybean lecithin are also used in animal feeds. Lecithin helps stabilize the product, provides antioxidant properties, promotes fat absorption in the digestive system, and increases energy efficiency of feed.
Soy lecithin is also widely used for industrial applications. For example, lecithin is used as a release agent for plastics, a dispersing agent in paints and inks, an antisludge additive in motor lubricants, an antigumming agent in gasoline, or an emulsifier, spreading agent, and antioxidant in the textile and rubber industries.