Is emulsifier 322 vegetarian?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is emulsifier 322 vegetarian?” and will discuss the benefits of emulsifier 322.

Is emulsifier 322 vegetarian?

Yes, emulsifier 322 is vegetarian, when derived from soybean, sunflower or rapeseed oil. However, the commercial production of lecithins used as food additives is based mainly on soya bean oil; other sources, such as cottonseed, corn, sunflower, rapeseed, egg and bovine brain, are of minor importance (1). Emulsifier 322 is also known as lecithin. Lecithin is obtained from the soy plant that’s why it is vegetarian or from animal sources, but of minor importance for the food industry. However, it is necessary to look at the ingredients list to verify the lecithin’s origin.

What is soy lecithin?

Our investigation leads us back to mid-19th century France. There are several types of lecithin present in animal and plant cells, and it was discovered by French scientist Theodore Gobley in 1846.

According to most legislative definitions, lecithins are mixtures of phosphatides (= phospholipids) derived from vegetable and animal origin. Animal origins include egg and bovine brain. However, soybeans have been the primary source of vegetable lecithin for many years (2). The first step for the production of lecithins from soya beans is the compression of the seeds to obtain the crude soya bean oil. To this crude oil, water is added to hydrate the phosphatides and the water–oil mixture is then heated at 70°C for 30–60 min. Afterwards, the oil-insoluble lecithin fraction (a wet gum known as lecithin hydrate) is separated by centrifugation. The gum is then transferred to a holding tank to allow addition of bleaching agents, if required. Hydrogen peroxide and benzoyl peroxide are used to bleach the lecithin. Bleaching may be carried out either using a 0.3–1.5% hydrogen peroxide solution instead of water for the degumming process, or by the addition of peroxide to the holding tank. Lecithins are separated from the triglycerides by a molecular membrane degumming process (1).

Choline, glycerol, glycolipids, and the phospholipids and triglycerides that make up lecithin were initially extracted from egg yolks and used in the production of lecithin. Cottonseed, marine sources, milk, rapeseed, soybeans, and sunflower are among the common sources of this chemical nowadays.

Lecithin granules may also be obtained; however, they are more often utilized as a liquid. The great bulk of lecithin utilization is based on its ability to aid in emulsification.

Oil and water don’t mix, don’t they? As the oil and water are mixed and agitated, the droplets spread out and seem to be uniformly dispersed, but when the shaking stops, the oil separates from the water.

As a result, lecithin is often utilized as an ingredient in processed foods, medicines, and vitamins.

Emulsifiers, including lecithins with hydrophilic and lipophilic segments in their molecular structure, concentrate at the interface between oil and water and subsequently reduce the interfacial tension. The emulsifiers facilitate the formation of the emulsion during energy input with mixers and homogenizers. In the optimal emulsion recipe, the emulsifier should support emulsion stability in interaction with the three main food components, fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and other ingredients such as thickening agents. The aims of emulsion stability are usually to prevent creaming, coalescence into larger droplets, sedimentation and separation during the shelf life of the product (2).

For example, lecithin breaks down the oil into tiny particles, making the oil droplets simpler to clean or digest when consumed. As a result, lecithin contributes to the smooth and uniform look of goods. As a result, it is an excellent component in nonstick cooking sprays and soaps.

Benefits of soy lecithin

It lowers cholesterol

Preventing hyperlipidemia and altering lipid metabolism are two of the primary benefits of soy lecithin addition in diets. For this reason, many individuals use soy lecithin supplements to decrease their cholesterol levels organically.

Lecithin’s characteristics have been shown to lower excess LDL cholesterol and increase HDL production in the liver, according to studies. Many studies reporting treatment with Lipostabil® (soybean phospholipids) in patients with coronary heart disease have suggested not only beneficial effects in reducing cholesterol levels by up to 50%, but also in preventing platelet aggregation (3).

Source of choline

Choline, which is an essential macronutrient, may be found in soy lecithin, which includes phosphatidylcholine, one of the principal forms of this macronutrient. 

In humans, dietary lecithins, namely phosphatidylcholines, are known to be hydrolysed by phospholipases to liberate choline. According to research studies, 1–3.38% of choline could theoretically be released from the food additive lecithins. Following intestinal hydrolysis of phosphatidylcholine, choline is rapidly absorbed by a carrier-mediated saturable transport system and appears in plasma predominantly as free choline (1).

Phosphatidylcholine supplementation has been demonstrated to promote healthy cholesterol levels, liver function, and brain function by researchers at the University of Wales Swansea. The choline concentration of soy lecithin powder or supplements is responsible for many of the possible advantages.

Boosts the body’s natural defenses

Adding soy lecithin to diabetic rats’ diets has been proven to greatly improve their immunological function.

The effect of dietary soy phospholipids on the macrophage phagocytic capacity and on lymphocyte number in response to concanavalin A (ConA)V stimulation was examined in vivo in rats. Lymphocyte number and macrophage phagocytic capacity were significantly improved with soy PC supplementation, indicating a modulatory positive effect of PC on the immune function (3).

Helps the body cope with both physical and mental stressors

In soy lecithin, phosphatidylserine, a phospholipid found in plants and animals, plays a critical role in the formation of cell membranes. Animal studies have indicated that phosphatidylserine produced from cow brains reduces stress hormone adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and cortisol levels.

Soy lecithin phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine complex (PAS) supplementation was tested by German researchers to determine how it affected ACTH, cortisol, and a psychological assessment known as the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory stress subscale.

There were three different doses of PAS tested on groups of 20 participants, and the results were published in the Danish journal Stress. Not only did scientists find astonishing effects of PAS on the human mind, but also found that PAS is dose-dependent, which makes it much more astounding (4).

Improves cognition

Phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid, both made from soy lecithin, were shown to have good benefits. Three times a day for three months, the supplement or placebo was administered to non-depressed elderly people with memory issues (primary parameter was the name/face acquisition and remembering the phone numbers). After just 3 weeks of phospholipids supplementation they observed a statistically significant improvement of the physiological loss of cognition. In comparison to the control group, patients with phospholipids supplementation had “rolled back the clock” of their cognitive age for 12 years in average (3). 

Phosphatidic acid and soy lecithin-derived phosphatidylserine may have a favorable effect on memory, cognition, and mood in the elderly and those with cognitive disorders. ‘

Prevent Osteoporosis

Despite conflicting findings, studies have shown that soy-based substances such as soy lecithin may help prevent bone loss by acting as antiresorptive and bone-enhancement agents. Because of the isoflavones, notably the glycosides, contained in soy, this has occurred.

Soy-based products may “possibly reduce bone loss and minimize the risk of fracture,” according to researchers. Since menopause is associated with an increase in bone loss in women, this might be attributable to the estrogenic effects of soy.

Soybean is gradually being considered as a potential substitute for estrogen in this population. Estrogen also lowers the risk of osteoporosis by promoting vitamin D activity, which prevents calcium elution of bones and increases calcium absorption. Specifically, the isoflavones in soybeans are structurally and functionally similar to estrogen, which is why they are also referred to as phytoestrogens (5). 

Glycosides in soy, which have antioxidant, antiproliferative, estrogenic, and immune-modulating activities, may potentially have a role.

Helps in the Prevention of Cancer

Several studies have described beneficial effects of phospholipids in tumor and metastasis inhibition. Some investigations have shown that cancer cell membranes acquire particular properties, which vary from those found in the differentiated progenitor cells. For example, the membranes of neoplastic cells showing the ability to metastasize have lost their adhesive characteristics as found in normal cells. This enables cancer cells to dissociate from their surrounding (tumor) tissue and to migrate to other tissues or organs, causing tumor metastases. The membrane of breast and prostate cancer cells was shown to have a higher concentration of lipid rafts (areas with high cholesterol content) than their normal counterpart cells, which was associated with higher apoptotic sensitivity (regulated by its cholesterol content). Consequently, the regulation of the composition and density of lipid rafts could potentially alter cancer cell viability and metastatic behavior (3).

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In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is emulsifier 322 vegetarian?” and discussed the benefits of emulsifier 322.


  1. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS), et al. Re‐evaluation of lecithins (E 322) as a food additive. EFSA J, 2017, 15, e04742.
  2. van Nieuwenhuyzen, Willem, and Mabel C. Tomás. Update on vegetable lecithin and phospholipid technologies. Euro j lipid sci technol, 2008, 110, 472-486.
  3. Küllenberg, Daniela, et al. Health effects of dietary phospholipids. Lipids health dis, 2012, 11, 1-16.  
  4. Hellhammer, J., et al. Effects of soy lecithin phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine complex (PAS) on the endocrine and psychological responses to mental stress. Stress, 2004, 7, 119-126.
  5. Kim, Il-Sup, Cheorl-Ho Kim, and Woong-Suk Yang. Physiologically active molecules and functional properties of soybeans in human health—A current perspective. Int J Molec Sci, 2021, 22, 4054.