What is pectin?

Pectin (from Greek pektos = curdled, gelatinated) is a mixture of indigestible polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates) naturally occurring in plant foods. It is a viscous soluble fiber, which cannot be digested by the human enzymes, but can be broken down (fermented) by beneficial large intestinal bacteria into simple sugars, which are absorbed [1]. One gram of a dry pectin powder has 3.3 Calories [2]. In European Union, pectins are labeled as E number E440 [15].

Fruits and Vegetables High in Pectin

The following foods contain 0.1-1% pectin [3]:

Fruits: apple, apricot, banana (especially unripe), blackberries, cherries, crabapples, cranberries, currants, dewberries, gooseberries, grapefruit, grapes, lemon, mayhaw, orange, pineapple, plums, pomegranate, quince, raspberries, strawberries.

Vegetables, legumes and cereals: beans, carrots, cornflakes and some other ready-to-eat cereals, guava, peas, squash, sweet potatoes.

Pectin as a Food Additive

Pectin extracted from apples or peels of citrus fruits can be added as a gelling agent, thickener, stabilizer or emulsifier to jams, jellies, puddings, yogurts, canned foods, cakes, pies and other baked foods, and in beverages. Pectin is also used in lozenges for sore throat.

Pectin Supplements Benefits: Insufficient Evidence

Pectin supplements are available over-the-counter as tablets or capsules.

There is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE about the effect of pectin on blood cholesterol levels [4], blood glucose spikes after meals in individuals with diabetes 2 [4], gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn [4,8], weight loss, colon or prostate cancer [12,13], diarrhea in children (alone or in combination with kaolin) [7] or excretion of heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium) [9,10,11].

Pectin Safety

Pectins are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [5] and have the “ADI not specified” status by JECFA [6], which is the highest safety category.

Pregnancy. There is a lack of studies about pectin use during pregnancy and breastfeeding [4].

Side Effects

Pectin may reduce the absorption of beta-carotene from foods for 50% [4]. Individuals allergic to pistachios and cashew nuts may be cross-sensitive to pectin [4,14].

Pectin and Cooking

Physical properties [6]:

  • A white, yellowish, light grey or light brown powder; other ingredients: various sugars and salts
  • No distinct taste
  • Gelling and thickening agent, emulsifier (maintains various liquids mixed)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is pectin vegan and gluten-free?

Pure pectin is mainly made from fruits, so it is vegan and gluten-free. For the actual pectin product, check the description on the label.

2. What is difference between pectin and gelatin?

Pectin is a plant carbohydrate, while gelatin is derived from animal proteins.

Related Nutrients

  1. Holloway WD et al, 1983, Pection digestion in humans  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  2. Pectin, unsweetened, dry mix  NutritionData
  3. 1931, Citrus Fruit Conservation, Florida Center for Instructional Technology
  4. Pectin
  5. SCOGS (Select Committee on GRAS Substances)  US Food and Drug Administration
  6. Pectins  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  7. Canadian Pediatric Society, 2003, Treatment of diarrheal disease  PubMed Central
  8. Farup PG et al, 2009, Alternative vs. conventional treatment given on-demand for gastroesophageal reflux disease: a randomised controlled trial  PubMed Central
  9. Eliaz I, 2006, The effect of modified citrus pectin on urinary excretion of toxic elements  PubMed
  10. Zhao ZY et al, 2008  The role of modified citrus pectin as an effective chelator of lead in children hospitalized with toxic lead levels  PubMed
  11. Crinnion WJ, 2008, Alternative Medicine Review
  12. Modified Citrus Pectin  National Cancer Institute
  13. Glinsky VV et al, 2009, Modified citrus pectin anti-metastatic properties: one bullet, multiple targets  PubMed Central
  14. Ferdman RM et al, 2006, Pectin anaphylaxis and possible association with cashew allergy  PubMed
  15. Current EU approved additives and their E Numbers  Food Standards Agency

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