What is pectin?
Pectin - one natural miracle.
Fruits are one neverending source of healthy compounds. One particularly good is pectin.
It is found in the distant 1790 by Louis Nicolas Vauquelin. He found a compound inside the apple vinegar with very interesting gelatinous structure.
Another scientist, Henry Braconnot, 35 years later, isolated and described the pectin's properties. He used the Greek word "pektikos" ("congealed, curdled").
After more than a hundred years of research on its chemistry the pectin is classified as structural polysaccharide (same as cellulose, hemicellulose and cell tissue) that acts as a component in building cellular walls and intracellular tissue in plants. It improves the plant survivability in dry periods and preserves moisture in the cells. The elasticity of the plant tissue is proportional to the pectin quantity in connective tissue.
Best pectin sources in nature are citrus fruits (orange, lemon, grapefruit, tangerines etc.) also apples, quinces and blackcurrant. Pectin found in orange's skin is about 16% of the whole volume and in the white connective meaty tissue below the orange skin there are about 40% pectin.
Orange's pectin has best gelling ability, followed by apple, peach and blackcurrant pectin.
There are two kinds of pectin in plant cells. Hydropectin and protopectin. First is water soluble, second is insoluble. There is more protopectin in non-ripe fruits which gives them the more hard and stable form. When the fruits ripen, the protopectin is broken and becomes more soluble. The process also makes the fruits softer. The same process is involved in baking the fruits and vegetables. They soften because heat breaks protopectin down.
Dry pectin has creamy brown color. It is extracted with heated weak acids from the pulp remaining by juice production. Mainly orange and apple juice but also from sugar beet, rejected sunflower (not suitable for oil) and other fruits and vegetables. After this it is settled down with ethanol or isopropanol and the resulting slurry is dried and crushed to powder.
(There is also more natural way to produce it with enzyme "dissolving" methods.)
Pectin production is about 40 million tons yearly with annual growth of 4%. Main exporters are Europe (Germany and Switzerland), South America (Argentine and Brazil), South Africa, China, Iran and others. Citrus pectin is preferred with 70% of total production followed by apple pectin with less than 30%.
The main use of pectin is for its ability to emulsify liquids to harder substance. It is used in the last two centuries for jellies, jams, candy fillings, pie creams and syrupy sweet bakery.
Other uses excluding sweets are in production of mayonnaise, some brands margarine, ketchup, sauces etc. It is also used to stabilize pulp in fruit and vegetable juices so it doesn't settle.
Its ability to bind to proteins is used for ice creams, yogurts and some cheeses.
JECFA defines pectin as safe.
There are 2 kinds of Pectin marked on the food labels as E440(i) and E440(ii). The first one extracted from natural source, the second is half-synthesized. Natural pectin can be ingested in indefinite quantity. Half synthetic one should be limited to 25 mg/kg daily (~2 grams/day for normal 75 kg person). The synthetic form is often used in yogurt and yogurt based foods and beverages, so you better check the label.
In the last 30 years, more study on pectin's properties found it can detox the body from some heavy metals such as:
- and also some radioactive isotopes - cesium, strontium, yttrium and others.
It also binds to (and helps excrete) some bio waste, gallbladder acids, carbamides and cholesterol.
- Consuming 5-6 grams natural apple pectin each day is proven to lower cholesterol with 5 to 18% in few months.
- Only the so-called "bad" (LDL) cholesterol is lowered, while the "good" (HDL) is kept.
- It also detoxifies the body by binding some of the junk we are eating and helps excrete it normally.
Being an insoluble fiber it also helps in Irritable bowel syndrome and lowers risk of colon cancer. A disease very wide spread in today's sedentiary society.
Pectin slows digestion and prevents glucose spikes after high carb meals. This is good news for Diabetes sufferers.
It is almost insoluble and can't act as food but exactly its indigestability is the miracle feature that makes eating it - healthy.
Pectin fibers structure is not irritable for the intestines and it actually helps in slow bowels and irregular bowel movements.
Slowing down digestion also helps keep feeling satiated longer and helps losing weight by getting hungry less frequently.
Japan scientists from "Kyushu" University in Fukuoka have found another interesting ability of Pectin. It helps transport anti-cancer chemistry to the area where the cancerous cells reside.
Especially in prostate cancer where the study confirmed pectin prevents the cancerous cells to metastasise in nearby tissue.
Another good ability for pectin it to bind to antibiotics and prolong their time of action inside the body and help excrete the remaining chemical compounds when the antibiotic is done.
In all aspects, ingesting pectin-rich foods is healthy and having a capsule of natural pectin each day can prevent a lot of complications in our sedentiary way of life.