There is some evidence to support use of pectin for diarrhea and for lowering cholesterol. More studies are needed to determine pectin’s benefits for cancer.
Pectin is a soluble fiber present in most plants but is concentrated in the peel and pulp of citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruits) and apples. Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) is obtained by changing pectin so it is better absorbed by the body. Data from studies in cells and mice showed that pectin and MCP have anticancer properties. There is also some evidence from human studies that pectin and MCP are effective in treating diarrhea and in lowering cholesterol. Pectin causes side effects such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
Pectin has been shown to be effective in treating diarrhea in children with persistent diarrhea.
Diet supplemented with fiber was shown to benefit patients with high cholesterol in the blood.
Cancer prevention and treatment
Laboratory and animal studies have shown that pectin has anticancer properties. Human studies are needed to verify these results.
Do Not Take If
You are taking lovastatin for high cholesterol: Pectin may inhibit the action of lovastatin and may increase LDL cholesterol.
You are taking carotenoid and alpha-tocopherol supplements: Pectin interferes with their absorption.
Pectin is a soluble fiber rich in galactoside residues. It is present in most plants but is concentrated in the peel and pulp of citrus fruits, and in apples. Pectin is used as a gelling agent in food. It is also used as a remedy for diarrhea and for lowering cholesterol. Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) is an altered form of pectin that has shorter carbohydrate chains and is claimed to be better absorbed by the body. In vitro and animal studies show that pectin induces apoptosis in colonic adenocarcinoma cells (1) and has antiproliferative (2), anticancer (3) and antimetastatic effects (13).
Preliminary clinical data suggest that pectin is beneficial in treating diarrhea (4) and in reducing the level of toxic heavy metals (14). Pectin is also effective against hypercholesterolemia (5), but a recent study showed that the source and type of pectin influence its activity (15).
Pectin has been promoted for reducing the risk of colon cancer and for reducing damage from radiation therapy but there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these uses. In a small non-randomized study, MCP was shown to increase the doubling time of prostate-specific antigen in patients with prostate cancer (6).
Gastrointestinal side effects such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea have been reported with use of pectin (5)(6).
Citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, and grapefruits) and apples.
Mechanism of Action
Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) acts as a ligand for galectin-3, which plays a major role in tumor formation and progression (7)(8). Binding of MCP to galectin-3 was shown to inhibit tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis in vivo. MCP is thought to render galectin-3 incapable of binding its receptors that would result in angiogenesis (9). Galectin-3 is also found on prostate cancer cells and in prostate tissue. In another study, MCP was shown to increase the doubling time of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) presumably by binding galectin-3 (6). Pectin was also shown to induce apoptosis in adenocarcinoma cells in vitro via caspase-3 activity resulting in DNA degradation (1). Pectin-supplemented diet was shown to exert antiproliferative effects in mouse distal colon during colonic hyperplasia (2). It also lowered cholesterol in patients with hypercholesterolemia.
MCP caused mild abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which resolved after stopping the MCP. (6)
When taken with lovastatin, pectin caused an increase in low-density lipoprotein in patients with hypercholesterolemia (10).
Absorption of supplements consisting of carotenoids and alpha-tocopherol is affected by pectin (12).