Soy lecithin supplementation alters macrophage phagocytosis and lymphocyte response to concanavalin A: a study in alloxan-induced diabetic rats

Cell Biochem Funct. 2008 Dec;26(8):859-65. doi: 10.1002/cbf.1517.


Dietary soy lecithin supplementation decreases hyperlipidemia and influences lipid metabolism. Although this product is used by diabetic patients, there are no data about the effect of soy lecithin supplementation on the immune system. The addition of phosphatidylcholine, the main component of lecithin, to a culture of lymphocytes has been reported to alter their function. If phosphatidylcholine changes lymphocyte functions in vitro as previously shown, then it could also affect immune cells in vivo. In the present study, the effect of dietary soy lecithin on macrophage phagocytic capacity and on lymphocyte number in response to concanavalin A (ConA) stimulation was investigated in non-diabetic and alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Supplementation was carried out daily with 2 g kg(-1) b.w. lecithin during 7 days. After that, blood was drawn from fasting rats and peritoneal macrophages and mesenteric lymph node lymphocytes were collected to determine the phospholipid content. Plasma triacylglycerol (TAG), total and HDL cholesterol and glucose levels were also determined. Lymphocytes were stimulated by ConA. The MTT (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) dye reduction method and flow cytometry were employed to evaluate lymphocyte metabolism and cell number, respectively. Soy lecithin supplementation significantly increased both macrophage phagocytic capacity (+29%) in non-diabetic rats and the lymphocyte number in diabetic rats (+92%). It is unlikely that plasma lipid levels indirectly affect immune cells, since plasma cholesterol, TAG, or phospholipid content was not modified by lecithin supplementation. In conclusion, lymphocyte and macrophage function were altered by lecithin supplementation, indicating an immunomodulatory effect of phosphatidylcholine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Concanavalin A / pharmacology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fasting
  • Lecithins / administration & dosage*
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mitogens / pharmacology
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Lecithins
  • Mitogens
  • Concanavalin A