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Lecithin vs. Cephalin: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 31, 2024
Lecithin is a fatty substance found in plant and animal tissues, used as an emulsifier. Cephalin is a phospholipid similar to lecithin, primarily found in brain and nerve tissues.

Key Differences

Lecithin is a term for a group of yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in animal and plant tissues, known for its emulsifying properties. Cephalin, also a phospholipid, is more specific to nervous tissue and plays a role in cellular membrane structure and function.
In terms of chemical composition, lecithin typically contains choline, fatty acids, glycerol, phosphoric acid, and triglycerides. Cephalin differs slightly as it generally lacks choline but includes ethanolamine or serine.
Commercially, lecithin is widely used in the food industry as an emulsifier, and also in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Cephalin is not commonly used in commercial products but is significant in medical research, especially in studies related to brain and nerve function.
The presence of lecithin in various food products helps in maintaining texture and extending shelf life, making it a versatile ingredient. Cephalin, on the other hand, is studied for its role in cellular processes, particularly in the nervous system, and is less prevalent in everyday products.
In nutritional supplements, lecithin is often promoted for its potential health benefits, including improving cholesterol levels and skin health. Cephalin is not typically found in supplements, but its function in the body contributes to neurological health and cellular communication.

Comparison Chart


In plant and animal tissues
Primarily in brain and nerve tissues

Chemical Composition

Contains choline, fatty acids, glycerol
Lacks choline, includes ethanolamine or serine

Commercial Use

Widely used as an emulsifier in food, pharmaceuticals
Not commonly used commercially, significant in medical research


Maintains texture in food, used in supplements
Studied for its role in the nervous system

Health Benefits

Promotes cholesterol health, skin health
Contributes to neurological health

Lecithin and Cephalin Definitions


Used as an emulsifier in various food products.
The salad dressing contains lecithin to keep it well-blended.


Lacks choline but includes ethanolamine or serine.
The unique structure of cephalin is essential for nerve tissue.


Beneficial for cholesterol and skin health.
He takes lecithin capsules to improve his cholesterol levels.


A phospholipid found mainly in brain and nerve tissues.
Cephalin plays a crucial role in brain cell function.


Contains choline and other fatty acids.
Lecithin supplements are popular for their choline content.


Contributes to cellular membrane structure and function.
Cephalin is integral to maintaining cell membrane integrity in neurons.


A fatty substance found in plant and animal tissues.
Lecithin is added to chocolate to maintain its smooth texture.


Important in studies of brain and nerve function.
Researchers are examining cephalin's role in neurological diseases.


Commonly used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Her skincare cream has lecithin for its moisturizing properties.


Not commonly found in commercial products.
Unlike lecithin, cephalin is not typically used in food products.


Any of a group of phospholipids found especially in the white matter of the brain and spinal cord.


(biochemistry) A phospholipid found particularly in the cells of nervous tissue; it is also the primary phospholipid in bacteria.


One of a group of phospholipids (nitrogenous phosphorized fatty substances), present in all living cells and particularly evident in nervous tissue. The cephalins consist of glycerol phosphate in which the two free hydroxyls of the glycerol are esterified with fatty acids, and the phosphate forms an ester linkage to the hydroxyl of ethanolamine. The phosphate may be linked to the alpha (end) or beta (middle) hydroxyl of the glycerol portion. The natural isomers are of the alpha form, and have the general formula R.O.CH2.CHOR´.CH2.O.PO2.O.CH2.CH2.NH2, where R and R´ are the acyl residues of long-chain fatty acids, which may be the same or different.


Where is cephalin found?

Mainly in the brain and nervous system.

What is lecithin?

A fatty substance used as an emulsifier in various products.

What are the benefits of lecithin?

It improves cholesterol levels and skin health.

What is cephalin?

A phospholipid found in brain and nerve tissues.

How are lecithin and cephalin different?

Lecithin is common in many tissues and products, while cephalin is specific to nervous tissue.

Can cephalin be used in food?

It's not commonly used in food products.

Do lecithin supplements benefit brain health?

They are believed to support brain health due to their choline content.

Is lecithin natural?

Yes, it occurs naturally in plant and animal tissues.

What foods contain lecithin?

Eggs, soybeans, and sunflower seeds are good sources.

What role does cephalin play in the body?

It's important for cell membrane structure in the nervous system.

Is lecithin good for the skin?

Yes, it's used in cosmetics for its moisturizing properties.

Is cephalin involved in medical research?

Yes, particularly in studies related to brain and nerve function.

What is the main use of lecithin in food?

As an emulsifier to maintain texture and consistency.

Are lecithin and cephalin the same in chemical structure?

No, they have different chemical compositions.

How does lecithin affect cholesterol?

It may help in the breakdown and distribution of fats in the body.

Is cephalin used in any therapies?

Not directly, but its functions are studied for potential therapeutic applications.

How does cephalin contribute to neurological health?

It's vital for cell function and communication in nerve tissues.

Can I take lecithin as a supplement?

Yes, lecithin supplements are widely available.

Does cephalin have any commercial uses?

Its primary significance is in medical and scientific research.

Can lecithin lower cholesterol?

Some studies suggest it can help improve cholesterol levels.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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