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4 Health Benefits of Pectin

By Dr. Michael Murray, ND

In this article:


‌‌‌‌What is Pectin?

Pectin is a soluble dietary fiber that is present in nearly all plants because it provides structural support for the plant cell wall. In the outer skin and rind of fruits and vegetables, it provides cement-like strength and is found in high concentration. For example, the rind of an orange contains 30% pectin; an apple peel 15%; and onion skins 12%. Pectin is also found within the pulp of fruit and vegetables.

Chemically speaking, pectin is a complex polysaccharide that consists of units of simple sugars and sugar acids. The gel-forming properties of pectin are well known to anyone who has made jelly or jam. These same gel-forming qualities are responsible for some of pectin’s health benefits, especially in improving intestinal health, blood sugar control, and cholesterol metabolism.1 

‌‌‌‌Are There Different Types of Pectin?

There are two primary forms of pectin on the market: apple pectin and modified citrus pectin (MCP). Both are derived from the pulp of the source fruit. 

Apple Pectin

Apple pectin is minimally processed and has greater gel-forming properties. 

Modified-Citrus Pectin

Modified-Citrus Pectin (MCP), also known as fractionated pectin, has been processed to contain shorter chains of polysaccharides that dissolve more readily in water and are better absorbed and utilized by the body than ordinary, long-chain apple pectin. 

The unique benefits of Modified-Citrus Pectin revolve around its absorbable compounds being able to bind to lectins on abnormal cells known as galactins. This binding prevents these abnormal cells from clumping together, circulating in the blood, and spreading to other body tissues.15 

MCP exerts several other benefits due to its absorbable compounds. Most notably, they produce significant activation of white blood cells known as cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells as well as exert a modulating effect on immune function.15 

‌‌‌‌The Health Benefits of Pectin

Cholesterol And Blood Pressure Support

Pectin has shown to improve cholesterol metabolism and supports normal blood pressure. Apple pectin in particular may boost heart health by improving cholesterol metabolism. 

In the liver, cholesterol is the mother compound of bile acids. Apple pectin improves blood cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids in the small intestine. With the loss of bile acids in the stool, more cholesterol is converted to bile acids, which can help improve blood cholesterol levels.2 

A detailed analysis of 67 studies in 2,990 adults showed that pectin reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol without affecting HDL (good) cholesterol. Overall, as a soluble fiber, apple pectin (5 g per day) tends to lower total cholesterol by 5 to 16%.3 Modified-citrus pectin much less than this level due to its less gel-forming nature.4

Lowering cholesterol may explain apple pectin’s ability to improve the health of the arteries and support normal blood pressure.5

Weight Management and Blood Sugar Control

Apple pectin delays stomach emptying. This can help promote the feeling of satiety. In other words, apple pectin may help you feel full, which may help with more controlled eating leading to weight loss.6 

A study in 74 male and female U.S. Army employees within normal weight limits who were fasted overnight then fed 448 ml of orange juice with either pectin or no pectin found that a dosage of 5 g promoted satiety.7 The effect lasted up to 4 hours after ingesting pectin in orange juice. 

Delayed stomach emptying is also associated with improved after-meal blood sugar control, which also has a beneficial effect on appetite control. Pectin has shown some benefits in reducing after-meal blood glucose levels in those with poor blood sugar control,8 but not much of an effect in those with good blood sugar control.9

Gut Health

Ultimately the greatest health benefit of pectin is its ability to improve the intestinal microbiomethe genetic material within the microbes that we harbor within our intestines.10 

The microorganisms - bacteria, viruses, and fungi - that live with the gut play an integral role in our overall health. What apple pectin has been shown to do as a “prebiotic” is help promote the growth and activity of helpful bacteria, while also inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive tract, such as Clostridium and Bacteroides sp.10,11 

This effect makes apple pectin potentially of benefit in dysbiosis, an alteration in the composition of the intestinal microbiome associated with gas, intestinal bloating, and foul-smelling stools. 

In addition to its beneficial effect on the microbiome, as a gel-forming fiber, apple pectin supports bowel health and regularity. Because of its water-binding action, apple pectin promotes softer, well-formed stools that are easier to pass.

Promotes Elimination of Heavy Metals

Because of its gel-forming nature and the ability to bind to bile acids, pectin is a useful detoxification aid. 

Similar to other gel-forming fiber, pectin is useful in promoting the elimination of heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, etc. In this application, MCP may be preferred as it has been used in four clinical studies of heavy metal detoxification. 

MCP supplementation increased urinary excretion of lead, arsenic, and cadmium in healthy volunteers, without side effects or depletion of essential elements.12

 In a small study of five patients, there was an average of 74% reduction in lead or mercury without side effects with the use of MCP alone or with a MCP/alginate combination.13 Treatment with MCP also dramatically decreased the levels of lead in blood and increased the levels of lead in urine in children hospitalized with lead toxicity.13

‌‌‌‌Dosage Recommendation

The usual dosage recommendation for pectin is 5 grams daily. 

‌‌‌‌Side Effects and Safety Concerns    

Pectin is extremely safe with no significant side effects at recommended dosages. The main concern when supplementing with any fiber is drinking sufficient water. If taking any prescription medication, be sure to take it away from pectin if it is adversely influenced by dietary fiber. 

References:

  1. Moslemi M. Reviewing the recent advances in application of pectin for technical and health promotion purposes: From laboratory to market. Carbohydr Polym. 2021 Feb 15;254:117324.. 
  2. Gunness P, Gidley MJ. Mechanisms underlying the cholesterol-lowering properties of soluble dietary fibre polysaccharides. Food Funct. 2010 Nov;1(2):149-55.
  3. Brown L, Rosner B, Willett WW, Sacks FM. Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Jan;69(1):30-42. 
  4. Brouns F, Theuwissen E, Adam A, et al. Cholesterol-lowering properties of different pectin types in mildly hyper-cholesterolemic men and women. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 May;66(5):591-9.
  5. Khan K, Jovanovski E, Ho HVT, Marques ACR, Zurbau A, Mejia SB, Sievenpiper JL, Vuksan V. The effect of viscous soluble fiber on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2018 Jan;28(1):3-13.
  6. Di Lorenzo C, Williams CM, Hajnal F, Valenzuela JE. Pectin delays gastric emptying and increases satiety in obese subjects. Gastroenterology. 1988 Nov;95(5):1211-5.
  7. Tiwary CM, Ward JA, Jackson BA. Effect of pectin on satiety in healthy US Army adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 1997 Oct;16(5):423-8.
  8. Schwartz SE, Levine RA, Weinstock RS, Petokas S, Mills CA, Thomas FD. Sustained pectin ingestion: effect on gastric emptying and glucose tolerance in non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Dec;48(6):1413-7. 
  9. Sanaka M, Yamamoto T, Anjiki H, Nagasawa K, Kuyama Y. Effects of agar and pectin on gastric emptying and post-prandial glycaemic profiles in healthy human volunteers. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2007 Nov;34(11):1151-5. 
  10. Koutsos A, Tuohy KM, Lovegrove JA. Apples and cardiovascular health--is the gut microbiota a core consideration? Nutrients. 2015 May 26;7(6):3959-98. 
  11. Olano-Martin E, Gibson GR, Rastell RA. Comparison of the in vitro bifidogenic properties of pectins and pectic-oligosaccharides. J Appl Microbiol. 2002;93(3):505-11. 
  12. Eliaz I, Hotchkiss AT, Fishman ML, Rode D. The effect of modified citrus pectin on urinary excretion of toxic elements. Phytother. Res. 2006;20:859–864.
  13. Eliaz I, Weil E, Wilk B. Integrative medicine and the role of modified citrus pectin/alginates in heavy metal chelation and detoxification-five case reports. Komplementmed. 2007;14:358–364.
  14. Zhao ZY, Liang L, Fan X, et al. The role of modified citrus pectin as an effective chelator of lead in children hospitalized with toxic lead levels. Altern. Health Med. 2008;14:34–38. 
  15. Eliaz I, Raz A. Pleiotropic Effects of Modified Citrus Pectin. Nutrients. 2019 Nov 1;11(11):2619. 
  16. Merheb R, Abdel-Massih RM, Karam MC. Immunomodulatory effect of natural and modified Citrus pectin on cytokine levels in the spleen of BALB/c mice. Int. J. Biol. Macromol. 2019;121:1–5. 

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