One of the reasons why you should eat an apple a day is that apples are a good source of pectin. The skin and the pulp of citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges also contain significant amounts of pectin. Pectin is a large carbohydrate compound that helps regulate your digestion because it is a type of soluble fiber. Besides its role in your digestive health, pectin may have other health benefits.
Researchers have shown that pectin can kill human colon cancer cells in laboratory experiments. They described their work in the January-February 2003 issue of "Anticancer Research". Also, there have been many studies over the years that have concluded that if you regularly eat fruits and vegetables, you can lower your risk of colon cancer. One such study was published in the May 2009 issue of "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition". The affect of pectin on reducing colon cancer cells may be connected to the decreased risk of colon cancer associated with regular consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Citrus and apple pectin may help you lower your LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels. In a clinical study, researchers from the Netherlands showed that subjects who consumed 15 grams of pectin per day over four weeks lowered their LDL cholesterol by 7 to 10 percent relative to control subjects. The researchers also concluded that the chemical structure of pectin influenced its ability to lower cholesterol. The results were published in the May 2012 issue of the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition".
Immune Cell Activation
When you eat an apple or an orange, the pectin goes straight through your digestive system without being absorbed into your bloodstream. However, scientists have been able to change the structure of this pectin to produce a material called modified citrus pectin, which can enter your bloodstream. Researchers have shown that modified citrus pectin can activate cells of the immune system, and these activated cells can kill leukemia cells in a sample of human blood. These results appeared in the August 2011 issue of "BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine".
Researchers found that children living in the area of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had varying levels of radioactive cesium in their bodies 17 years after the 1986 meltdown. The radioactive material contaminated the food supply, especially the milk that the children were drinking. Children with moderate to high levels of radioactive cesium received apple pectin for a period of 16 days. The researchers observed significant reductions in the radioactive cesium levels in these children as well as improvement in cardiovascular abnormalities they had exhibited. Their study appeared in the December 2004 issue of "Swiss Medical Weekly".
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Pectin
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet
- Anticancer Research: Pectin and Pectin Oligosaccharides Induce Apoptosis in In Vitro Human Colonic Adenocarcinoma Cells
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Cholesterol-Lowering Properties of Different Pectin Types in Mildly Hyper-Cholesterolemic Men and Women
- American Cancer Society: Modified Citrus Pectin
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Activation of Human T-Helper/Inducer Cell, T-Cytotoxic Cell, B-Cell, and Natural Killer (NK)-Cells and Induction of Natural Killer Cell Activity Against K562 Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Cells With Modified Citrus Pectin
- Swiss Medical Weekly: Relationship Between Cesium (137 Cs) Load, Cardiovascular Symptoms, and Source of Food in "Chernobyl" Children--Preliminary Observations After Intake of Oral Apple Pectin
Robert DiPardo has been a pharmaceutical chemist for more than 30 years. He has co-authored several scientific publications on cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer's disease and other therapeutic areas. DiPardo retired from drug discovery research in 2009 and, since 2010, has covered fitness and well-being for various online publications. DiPardo holds a Master of Science in organic chemistry from Yale University.