Pectin: An impressive all-rounder for your health
General information about pectin
Pectin belongs to the polysaccharides (multiple sugars). Nevertheless, it is not conventional sugar. Pectin is a soluble dietary fiber, which means that it reaches the large intestine undigested. In the large intestine, pectin then serves as food for numerous beneficial intestinal bacteria, which is why it is also known as a prebiotic.
The beneficial bacteria can metabolize pectin and obtain energy from it. At the same time, short-chain fatty acids are produced, which serve as an energy source for the intestinal mucosa.
Pectin is obtained from fruits; the substance cannot be produced synthetically. It is extracted with the help of various processes, mostly from leftovers from juice production. Very often, apple scraps or peels of citrus fruits are also used. This is because the dietary fiber is found in the cell walls of the peels and not in the flesh of the fruit.
Fruits rich in pectin
A lot of pectin is found in apples, pears, quinces, persimmons, citrus fruits, rose hips or blueberries. As mentioned, you absorb the pectin through the peel, which is why only those fruits are suitable where you can also eat the peel.
Below are a few examples to help you see how much pectin is really in the peel.
- Apple 1-1.5%
- Apple scraps approx. 15%
- Quince 0.5%
- Orange 0.5-3.5%
- Citrus peels (from oranges and lemons) approx. 30%.
- Cherry 0,4%
- Carrots 1.4%
- Apricot 1%
The health-promoting effect of pectin stated in studies is achieved from an amount of 10g or more per day.
If you wanted to reach this amount via apples, for example, you would have to consume about 1 kg of apples. So it is clear that this is not practical to implement.
By the way, you can learn more about the apple
How pectin affects health
Pectin has a whole range of positive properties. These include:
- Have a positive effect on blood pressure
- Lowers blood lipid and cholesterol levels
- Has a satiating effect
- Regulates digestion
- Has a prebiotic effect
Pectin and the cholesterol level
Dietary fiber – especially soluble fiber – has a positive effect on cholesterol levels. They bind bile acids to themselves in the intestine, causing them to be excreted through the stool. As a result, the body must form new bile acids, for which cholesterol must be used. By using the cholesterol to form new bile acids, the cholesterol level then drops.
In addition, short-chain fatty acids are formed in the intestine when dietary fiber is broken down. These in turn inhibit the formation of new cholesterol in the liver.
This effect has been investigated in numerous studies and confirmed again and again. Thus, in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study with 51 subjects, a 6.4% reduction in total cholesterol was observed after 8 weeks.
For this, they took 15g of water-soluble fiber daily in the form of a mixture of psyllium and pectin.
The LDL level (the “bad” cholesterol) even decreased by 10.5%, while the HDL level (“good cholesterol”) remained unchanged.
In a meta-analysis from 1999, 67 studies were included and evaluated. In summary, the cholesterol-lowering effect of pectin or of water-soluble dietary fibers could be confirmed. The dose in the studies studied varied from 2-10g per day.
It remains to be noted that not all pectin is the same. In a Dutch study, apple pectin was shown to lower cholesterol levels better than citrus pectin.
The effect of pectin on blood pressure
Dietary fiber also has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. This is particularly noticeable with regard to blood pressure, as confirmed in a 2018 meta-analysis.
The meta-study included 43 trials, which found an average reduction in systolic blood pressure of 1.59 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure of 0.39 mmHg. To achieve this effect, you need to consume 8.7g of water-soluble fiber daily for about 7 weeks.
Since the reduction of systolic blood pressure was observed only with psyllium supplementation, it is recommended to combine psyllium husk powder and pectin.
Pectin to improve the intestinal flora
A study was conducted in China to improve the intestinal flora in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Twenty-four grams of pectin were administered daily, resulting in significant improvement of intestinal flora within 6 weeks.
The bifidobacteria in the intestine were strengthened by the fiber, while the harmful bacteria decreased. Symptoms were relieved and inflammatory markers decreased with the help of pectin.
These effects were absent in the placebo group, which is why the research team advised including fiber supplementation in irritable bowel therapy.
These findings are also very interesting for athletes, as they often suffer from poor intestinal flora. Ultra-endurance athletes such as trail runners and Ironman athletes are particularly affected.
This is because the intestines are heavily stressed by the long loads and high intake of simple carbohydrates. In the long run, this can lead to symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
So for this group, a high intake of pectin pays off especially.