Apple pectin: benefits, side effects, dosages and interactions

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Apple pectin is a type of soluble fiber that is naturally found in apples. The extracted pectin is commonly used to thicken jams and preserves, but it can also be taken as a dietary supplement. Some believe that apple pectin improves the health of the digestive system and helps prevent or treat gastrointestinal and metabolic disorders. When mixed with water in the intestines, pectin forms a gel-like substance that can facilitate bowel movements.

What is apple pectin used for?

Pectin is a type of acid found in the cell wall of plants that is made up primarily of a sugar acid known as galacturonic acid. In its natural form, pectin is not absorbed by human enzymes, but it can be broken down by bacteria in the intestines .

When modified in the laboratory with chemicals such as acetic acid and calcium chloride, pectin becomes more absorbable and is considered more bioavailable.

Modified citrus pectin (MCP) supplements are most often found on drug store shelves, but there are also apple pectin supplements that offer similar benefits.

Alternative medicine professionals believe that apple pectin can prevent or treat a wide range of conditions, including:

Despite its purported benefits, there is little conclusive evidence that apple pectin can prevent or treat any disease. As a soluble fiber, pectin can help relieve constipation or diarrhea and improve heart health. More research is required.

Here is some of the current research on apple pectin.

Diarrhea

The combination of apple pectin and chamomile extract may help relieve diarrhea in children, according to a preliminary study published in the German journal Arzneimittelforschung ( Drug Research ) .

For this study, 255 children 6 months to 6 years were given an inactive placebo or a commercial drug called Diarrhoesan (containing 320 mg of apple pectin and 250 mg of chamomile extract) during an acute episode of diarrhea.

According to the researchers, children who received Diarrhoesan experienced greater improvement in symptoms compared to children who did not. While it can be assumed that pectin was the cause, the researchers were unable to draw any conclusions as to which ingredient was more or less active.

Similarly, a 2015 study from Jinling Hospital in China found that among 87 adults with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D), those who received 24 grams of powdered pectin per day had better control of their symptoms and had multiple episodes of diarrhea. . at 29 months compared to placebo .

High cholesterol

Apple pectin may help lower cholesterol levels, according to a 2012 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition . The researchers studied the effects of different types of apple or citrus pectin in people with mildly high cholesterol and found that both types could lower the level of "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from 7% to 10% .

LDL cholesterol is a type of cholesterol that can build up on the walls of the arteries, creating obstructive plaques and promoting atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Pectin works by binding to bile in the intestines; Bile is a substance that breaks down fat so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

By inhibiting the breakdown of digestive fat, apple pectin can help treat hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol), although it is unlikely to do so on its own.

Diabetes

Pectin can also lower blood sugar levels by binding to carbohydrates in the stomach and intestines. This helps prevent the breakdown of carbohydrates into their constituent sugars, namely glucose, fructose, and galactose.

A 2016 review by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) reported that apple pectin taken in doses ranging from 500 milligrams (mg) to 1000 mg provides little or no benefit in lowering blood sugar after consuming 65 grams carbohydrates. There were no changes in the response to insulin compared to placebo .

In contrast, soy-derived pectin appears to have a stronger effect on blood glucose levels, although it is not sufficient to control diabetes on its own.

Cancer

Alternative practitioners often advertise apple pectin as a cancer-fighting supplement due to its ability to bind to an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase (β-glucuronidase) in the gut. The enzyme is a by-product of fecal bacteria and is closely related to colon cancer.

A 2013 review in Frontiers of Pharmacology confirmed that apple pectin is actually effective in inhibiting β-glucuronidase in test tube studies. Studies in rats and mice also suggest prophylactic effects. Despite the positive results, there is no evidence that such a response can be achieved in humans .

Unlike MCP, which is easily absorbed from the intestines, apple pectin absorption is minimal, so it is unlikely to have anti-cancer properties at best.

In contrast, MCP has been shown to reduce the risk of metastasis (spread of cancer) in mice by preventing the formation of new blood vessels that feed cancerous tumors. Therefore, the inhibitory effect of MCP occurs in the bloodstream and not in the intestines, where apple pectin acts.

Possible side effects.

Apple pectin is generally safe to consume, although it can cause side effects such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Stomach cramps

Side effects are usually mild and can usually be improved by reducing the dose.

Pectin can interact with certain substances. It is known to reduce the absorption of beta-carotene, an important antioxidant found in colored fruits and plants. An inadequate intake of beta-carotene can lead to a vitamin A deficiency, with symptoms such as dry skin, dry eyes, night blindness, fertility problems, and an increased risk of throat and chest infections.

Pectin can also interfere with the absorption of certain pharmaceuticals, including:

To avoid interactions, tell your doctor if you are taking apple pectin, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter drugs.

Dosage and preparation

Get Drug Information / Anastasia Tretyak

Apple pectin supplements can be found online, as well as in many health food and supplement stores. Most are sold in capsules or as a powder that can be mixed with water or juice.

There are no guidelines for the proper use of apple pectin, although most manufacturers generally recommend a daily dosage of 1,000 to 1,400 mg per day. It is best taken 30 minutes before meals so that it can bind to excess water, fat, or carbohydrates in the intestines.

Start with half doses of apple pectin for the first few weeks, gradually increasing as you tolerate it. Consuming too much pectin can cause diarrhea, especially in the early stages of treatment.

Doses ranging from 350 to 750 mg, taken in divided doses, have been used safely in children. Talk to your pediatrician before using apple pectin (or any other antidiarrheal medicine) in children.

What to look for

Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States, so it is difficult to determine which ones are good and which ones are not. One way to find out is to look for brands that are certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). They are less susceptible to pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and other harmful substances.

You should also select brands that have been voluntarily submitted for testing by an independent certification body such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International. This way, you can be sure that the supplement contains the ingredients listed on the product label in the correct amount.

Apple pectin can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container. Never use supplements that have passed their expiration date. Avoid water-damaged additives or lumpy or jelly-like powders.

Other questions

What are some good sources of pectin besides apples and supplements?
Apples are well known for containing pectin, but it can also be found in many other plant-based foods.

Foods rich in pectin include:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Beetroot
  • Carrot
  • Cherry
  • Citrus
  • Citrus zest
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Pears
  • Sweet potato

Eating these foods can improve digestion by increasing your intake of soluble fiber. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) recommends 2,240 to 3,080 milligrams of fiber per day for American adults .

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