By: Pallavi Vathiar. Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
Pectin is the substance which occurs naturally in the apples, berries and other fruits. Commercially, it is produced as white to light brown powder that is extracted from citrus fruits. It is used as gelling agent in foods especially jams and jellies. It is also added to sweets, medicines, dessert fillings and fruit drinks. It is the water soluble carbohydrate which is available on the intercellular tissues and cell walls of certain plants. It helps to lower the low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. It helps to provide relief from diarrhea and slow down the passage of food from intestine (1).
Pectin provides little nutrition. One fluid ounce (29 grams) of liquid pectin contains (2):
- Calories: 3
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrate: 1 gram
- Fiber: 1 gram
Pectin is primarily used in food production and home cooking as a thickener. It’s added to commercially produced and homemade jam, jellies, and preserves. It may likewise be added to flavored milk and drinkable yogurt as a stabilizer. For home kitchen use, pectin is sold as a white or light-brown powder or a colorless liquid.
Pectin is also used as a soluble fiber supplement, which is often sold in capsule form. Soluble fiber may help relieve constipation, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improve blood sugars, and promote a healthy weight (3).
Soluble fiber like pectin is believed to decrease blood sugar levels, which could aid conditions like type 2 diabetes. In a small, 4-week study, 12 people with type 2 diabetes took 20 grams of apple pectin daily and experienced improved blood sugar responses (4).
Lipid Levels and Blood Pressure
Apple pectin may boost heart health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels. This substance binds to bile acids in your small intestine, which may help improve cholesterol levels .
An analysis of 67 studies in 2,990 adults determined that pectin reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol without affecting HDL (good) cholesterol. Overall, pectin tended to lower total cholesterol by 5–16%. This is important, as elevated levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol are a major risk factor for heart disease (5,6).
A review of 43 studies showed that 9 grams of pectin per day for 7 weeks lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure — the top and bottom numbers in a reading, respectively. This effect was especially pronounced in people with high blood pressure (7).
Diet plays a role in cancer development and progression, with increased fruit and vegetable intake potentially lowering your risk. Test-tube studies suggest that pectin may fight prostate and colon cancer cells (8). Researchers theorize that pectin can decrease colon cancer risk by binding with and inhibiting the absorption of galectin-3, high levels of which are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer (9).
Apple pectin may aid weight loss by delaying stomach emptying. Slower digestion may help you feel full for longer. In turn, this may reduce your food intake, leading to weight loss (10).
In one 2-day study, 74 adults took 5–20 grams of pectin with orange juice after fasting overnight. Even those taking the smallest dose experienced more fullness and reduced food intake (11).
In few studies it was been noticed that increased fiber intake has been linked to a decreased risk of overweight and obesity. It’s believed that this is because fiber is filling, and most high fiber foods are lower in calories than low fiber foods like refined grains (12,13).
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ulcerative Collitis
Due to its stomach-settling qualities, pectin has also been recommended for conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis. In a study it was been observed that Pectin acts as a prebiotic in specifically stimulating gut bifidobacteria in IBS-D patients and is effective in alleviating clinical symptoms, balancing colonic microflora and relieving systemic inflammation. In view of its ability to re-establish a healthy gut ecosystem, pectin has the potential of being a therapeutic agent in IBS-D (14).
Another study found out that Pectin enhances the effect of fecal microbiota transplantation in ulcerative colitis by delaying the loss of diversity of gut flora. Fecal microbiota transplantation has a short-time effect for mild to moderate ulcerative colitis and pectin further decreased the Mayo score by preserving the diversity of the gut flora following fecal microbiota transplantation for ulcerative colitis and enhanced the effect of fecal microbiota transplantation (15).
Eating more fruits and vegetables or taking a supplement are good ways to boost your pectin intake. Jams and jellies should be eaten in moderation, as they are high in sugar and calories.