Soy lecithin reduces plasma lipoprotein cholesterol and early atherogenesis in hypercholesterolemic monkeys and hamsters: beyond linoleate


      The current study was designed to investigate the hypocholesterolemic and anti-atherogenic properties of soy lecithin beyond its fatty acid content. In experiment 1, 18 cynomolgus monkeys were divided into three groups of six and fed diets which approximated either the average American diet (AAD), the American Heart Association (AHA) Step I diet, or a modified AHA (mAHA) Step I diet containing 3.4% soy lecithin for 8 weeks. Plasma samples were collected from food-deprived monkeys and analyzed for total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), very low- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C), and triglyceride (TG) concentrations. Group comparisons revealed that monkeys fed the mAHA Step 1 diet had significantly lower plasma TC (−46%) and non-HDL-C (−55%) levels compared to the AAD diet, whereas monkeys fed the AHA Step 1 diet had lesser reductions in plasma TC (−21%) and non-HDL-C (−18%) levels. The monkeys fed the mAHA Step I diet had significantly lower plasma TC (−32%) and non-HDL-C (−45%) compared to the monkeys fed the AHA step diet. Also, only the mAHA Step I diet significantly reduced pre-treatment plasma TC and non-HDL-C levels by −39 and −51%, respectively with no significant effect on plasma HDL-C or TG levels. In experiment 2, 45 hamsters were divided into three groups of 15 and fed the following three modified non-purified diets for 8 weeks: a hypercholesterolemic diet (HCD) containing 10% coconut oil and 0.05% cholesterol, HCD plus 3.4% soy lecithin (+SL), or the HCD with added levels of linoleate and choline equivalent to the +SL diet but no lecithin (−SL). Plasma lipids were determined as in experiment 1 and aortas were perfusion-fixed and Oil Red O stained for morphometric analyses of fatty streak area. Relative to the HCD group, the +SL-treated hamsters had significantly lower plasma TC (−58%), non-HDL-C (−73%) and aortic fatty streak area (−90%). Relative to the −SL group, hamsters fed the +SL diet had significantly lower plasma TC (−33%), non-HDL-C (−50%) and significantly reduced aortic fatty streak area (−79%). In conclusion, the first experiment suggests that the cholesterol-lowering efficacy of the AHA Step I diet can be enhanced with the addition of soy lecithin without reducing plasma HDL-C levels, whereas the second experiment suggest that the hypocholesterolemic, and in particular, the anti-atherogenic properties of soy lecithin cannot be attributed solely to its linoleate content.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Atherosclerosis
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Chait A.
        • Brunzell J.D.
        • Denke M.A.
        • Eisenberg D.
        • Ernst N.D.
        • Franklin F.A.
        • Ginsberg H.
        • Kotchen T.A.
        • Kuller L.
        • Mullis R.M.
        • Nichaman M.Z.
        • Nicolosi R.J.
        • Schaefer E.J.
        • Stone N.J.
        • Weidman W.H.
        Rational of the Diet-Heart Statement of the American Heart Association: report of the Nutrition Committee.
        Circulation. 1993; 88: 3008-3029
        • NCEP Expert Panel
        Summary of the second report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood cholesterol in adults (Adult Treatment Panel II).
        J Am Med Assoc. 1993; 269: 3015-3023
        • Barr S.L.
        • Ramakrishnan R.
        • Johnson C.
        • Holleran S.
        • Dell R.B.
        • Ginsberg H.N.
        Reducing total dietary fat without reducing saturated fatty acids does not significantly lower total plasma cholesterol concentrations in normal males.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 1992; 55: 675-681
        • Schaefer E.J.
        • Lichtenstein A.H.
        • Lamon-Fava S.
        • Contois J.H.
        • Li Z.
        • Goldin B.R.
        • Rasmussen H.
        • McNamara J.R.
        • Ordovas J.M.
        Effects of National Cholesterol Education Program Step 2 diets relatively high or relatively low in fish-derived fatty acids on plasma lipoproteins in middle-aged and elderly subjects.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 1996; 63: 234-241
        • Clark S.B.
        • Clark V.E.
        • Small D.M.
        Effects of lecithin ingestion on plasma and lymph lipoproteins of normo- and hyperlipemic rats.
        Am J Physiol. 1981; 241: 422-430
        • Hunt C.E.
        • Duncan L.A.
        Hyperlipoproteinaemia and atherosclerosis in rabbits fed low-level cholesterol and lecithin.
        Br J Exp Pathol. 1985; 66: 35-46
        • Jimenez M.A.
        • Scarino M.L.
        • Vignolini F.
        • Mengheri E.
        Evidence that polyunsaturated lecithin induces a reduction in plasma cholesterol level and favorable changes in lipoprotein composition in hypercholesterolemic rats.
        J Nutr. 1990; 120: 659-667
        • Wong E.K.
        • Nicolosi R.J.
        • Low P.A.
        • Herd J.A.
        • Hayes K.
        Lecithin influence on hyperlipemia in rhesus monkeys.
        Lipids. 1980; 15: 428-433
        • Blaton V.
        • Soetewey F.
        • Vandamme D.
        • Declerq B.
        • Peeters H.
        Effect of polyunsaturated phosphatidylcholine on human types II and IV hyperlipoproteinemias.
        Artery. 1976; 2: 309-325
        • Childs M.T.
        • Bowlin J.A.
        • Oglivie J.T.
        • Hazzard W.R.
        • Albers J.J.
        The contrasting effects of a dietary soya lecithin product and corn oil on lipoprotein lipids in normolipidemic and familial hypercholesterolemic subjects.
        Atherosclerosis. 1981; 38: 217-222
        • Wojcickl J.
        • Pawlik A.
        • Samochawiee L.
        • Katdenska M.
        • Mysliwiec Z.
        Clinical evaluation of lecithin as a lipid-lowering agent. Short communication.
        Phytother Res. 1995; 9: 597-599
        • Cobb M.
        • Turkki P.
        • Linscheer W.
        • Raheja K.
        Lecithin supplementation in healthy volunteers.
        Nutr Metab. 1980; 24: 228-237
        • Greten H.
        • Raetzer H.
        • Stiehl A.
        • Schettler G.
        The effect of polyunsaturated phosphatidylcholine on plasma lipids and fecal sterol excretion.
        Atherosclerosis. 1980; 36: 81-88
        • Kesaniemi Y.A.
        • Grundy S.M.
        Effect of dietary polyenylphosphatidylcholine on metabolism of cholesterol and triglycerides in hypertriglyceridemic patients.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 1986; 43: 98-107
        • O'Brien B.C.
        • Andrews V.G.
        Influence of dietary egg and soybean phospholipids and triacylglycerols on serum lipoproteins.
        Lipids. 1993; 28: 7-12
      1. Prack M, Sanborn T, Waugh D, Simkin H, Bennett Clark S, Small DM. Effects of polyunsaturated lecithin on plasma and lipoprotein cholesterol and fatty acids in normal men. In: Perkins EG, Visek WJ, editors. Dietary Fats and Health. Champaign, IL, American Oil Chemist's Society 1983:689–697.

        • Knuiman J.T.
        • Beynen A.C.
        • Katan M.B.
        Lecithin intake and serum cholesterol.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 1989; 49: 266-268
        • Brousseau M.E.
        • Stucchi A.F.
        • Vespa D.B.
        • Schaefer E.
        • Nicolosi R.J.
        A diet enriched in monounsaturated fats decreases low density lipoprotein concentrations in cynomolgus monkeys by a different mechanism than does a diet enriched in polyunsaturated fats.
        J Nutr. 1993; 123: 2049-2058
        • Terpstra A.H.M.
        • Holmes J.C.
        • Nicolosi R.J.
        The hypocholesterolemic effect of dietary soybean protein vs casein in hamsters fed cholesterol-free or cholesterol-enriched semipurified diets.
        J Nutr. 1991; 121: 944-947
        • Krause B.R.
        • Bousley R.F.
        • Kieft K.A.
        • Stanfield R.L.
        Effect of the ACAT inhibitor CI-976 on plasma cholesterol concentrations and distribution in hamsters fed zero- and low-cholesterol diets.
        Clin Biochem. 1992; 25: 371-377
        • Allain C.C.
        • Poon L.S.
        • Chen C.S.G.
        • Richmond W.
        • Fu P.C.
        Enzymatic determination of total serum cholesterol.
        Clin Chem. 1974; 20: 470-475
        • Bucolo G.
        • David H.
        Quantitative determination of serum triglycerides by the use of enzymes.
        Clin Chem. 1973; 36: 476-482
        • Weingand K.W.
        • Daggy B.P.
        Quantitation of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in plasma from hamsters by differential precipitation.
        Clin Chem. 1990; 36: 575
        • Kowala M.C.
        • Nunnari J.J.
        • Durham S.K.
        • Nicolosi R.J.
        Doxazosin and cholestyramine similarly decrease fatty streak formation in the aortic arch of hyperlipidemic hamsters.
        Atherosclerosis. 1991; 91: 35-49
        • Foxall T.L.
        • Shwaery G.T.
        • Stucchi A.F.
        • Wang S.S.
        • Nicolosi R.J.
        Dose-response effects of doxazosin on plasma lipids, lipoprotein cholesterol, and aortic fatty streak formation in hypercholesterolemic hamsters.
        Am J Pathol. 1992; 140: 1357-1363
      2. Snedecor GW, Cochran WG. Statistical Methods. Ames, IA: The Iowa State University Press, 1980.

        • Nicolosi R.J.
        • Ausman L.M.
        • Hegsted D.M.
        Rice bran oil lowers serum total and low density lipoprotein cholesterol and apo B levels in non-human primates.
        Atherosclerosis. 1991; 88: 133-142
        • Nicolosi R.J.
        • Stucchi A.F.
        • Meservey C.
        • Misner L.
        • Behr S.
        Modification of the AHA Step I diet increases its efficacy (abstract).
        Circulation. 1994; 90: 1-74
        • O'Brien B.C.
        • Corrigan S.M.
        Influence of dietary soybean and egg lecithins on lipid responses in cholesterol-fed guinea pigs.
        Lipids. 1988; 23: 647-650
        • Scow R.O.
        • Stein Y.
        • Stein O.
        Incorporation of dietary lecithin and lysolecithin into lymph chylomicrons in the rat.
        J Biol Chem. 1967; 242: 4919-4924
        • Zierenberg O.
        • Grundy S.M.
        Intestinal absorption of polyenephosphatidylcholine.
        J Lipid Res. 1982; 23: 1136-1142
      3. Assmann G. LCAT lipoprotein and phospholipid substrate specificity. In: Peeter H, editor. Phosphatidylcholine. Berlin: Springer, 1976:34–47.