If you have high cholesterol and have looked into how to lower it without medication, you may have come across the health benefits of pectin. Though best-known as an ingredient in jams and jellies, the substance can lower your cholesterol, protect against cancer, halt diarrhea, and much more.
Pectin is a naturally occurring substance found in berries, apples, and citrus fruits. The fiber of these fruits is used in preserves and medicine. Pectin has been used in the past for such diverse practices as stopping diarrhea, thickening food, and even as a denture adhesive.
In 2012, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study of pectin and high cholesterol. They found both citrus and apple pectin lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol. An earlier study pointed to pectin, oatmeal, and other soluble fiber foods as helpful in lowering total cholesterol.
Pectin may be able to help prevent several types of cancer including colon, prostate, and breast. Although much of the research is in the early stages, the outlook is promising for those whose families have histories of certain cancers. One pharmaceutical company is testing a modified form of citrus pectin which may be able to reduce prostate cancer after treatments.
Because pectin binds and absorbs liquid, it has long been used to control diarrhea. At one time, certain medicines containing kaolin and pectin were sold to treat diarrhea, but the FDA eventually forbade the ingredient. Nonetheless, in 2006 a German study described positive results after giving chamomile and apple pectin to children with diarrhea.
Although it may sound odd that pectin stops diarrhea and also controls constipation, this dual purpose has to do with regulating the colon and promoting colon health. Pectin provides fiber, which can absorb excess water while also providing much-needed bulk, and thereby relief to those with chronic constipation.
Because pectin binds so well to moisture and foods in the digestive tract, it is excellent for regulating blood sugar. This is important for people with diabetes, who require a slower release of sugars in their bloodstream. While pectin won't replace a healthy diabetic diet, it should help keep your sugar levels down.
Preliminary research indicates pectin may play a role in binding to mercury, allowing the kidneys to process it out of the body more quickly, especially in children. Though it may help, pectin is not a cure for mercury poisoning, and if you or someone you know has contracted it, seek immediate medical attention.
Pectin has anti-inflammatory qualities that may help fight infection, reducing arteriosclerosis and inflammatory properties in the veins and arteries. The fruit fiber may reduce inflammation in muscles and joints as well, but more research needs to be done to determine if pectin is indeed helpful in these situations.
One side effect of pectin may be a benefit to those looking to lose weight. Pectin will often bind with food in the intestine, causing your body to absorb fewer calories and nutrition from the food. The result is weight loss, often unintended, but it could be beneficial to people with obesity or other excess weight conditions. The downside is that pectin could prevent your body from absorbing important nutrients, as well.
Pectin is an ingredient in cough syrup and throat lozenges. If you have a sore throat, or if you have mouth sores, pectin will coat the area and help provide relief. The properties that thicken mix with your saliva and turn into a gel that can soothe mouth sores or a sore throat.
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