Food additive might help cut down disease risk

WASHINGTON - Scientists have identified a substance in the liver that helps process fat and glucose and may help cut down risk for diabetes, hypertension or cardiac disease.

It is a component of common food additive lecithin. It may be possible to deliver lecithin products to control blood lipids in food rather than medication.

“Currently, doctors use drugs called fibrates to treat problems with cholesterol and triglycerides,” said study co-author Irfan J. Lodhi, postdoctoral fellow in endocrinology and metabolism at the Washington University School of Medicine - St Louis (WUSM-SL).

“By identifying this substance that occurs naturally in the body - and also happens to be used as a food additive, it may be possible to improve the treatment of lipid disorders and minimise drug side-effects by adding particular varieties of lecithin to food.”

Lecithin is found in high concentrations in egg whites. It also is in soybeans, grains, fish, legumes, yeast and peanuts, said a WUSM-SL release.

Most commercially used lecithin comes from soybeans. Lecithin can alter food taste and texture and also can be mixed with water to disperse fats, making it a common additive in margarine, mayonnaise, chocolate and baked goods.

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