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Any of a class of phospholipids (also called phosphatidyl cholines) important in cell structure and metabolism. They are composed of phosphate, choline, glycerol (as the ester), and two fatty acids. Various fatty acids pairs distinguish the various lecithins. Commercial lecithin, a wetting and emulsifying agent used in animal feeds, baking products and mixes, chocolate, cosmetics and soap, insecticides, paint, and plastics, is a mixture of lecithins and other phospholipids in an edible oil.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lecithin, visit Britannica.com.