pectin - pectin power
Hiding inside many fruits and vegetables is a special kind of fiber that may be the new top gun in fighting man's worst diseases. It's called pectin and it not only lowers cholesterol , it may combat artherosclerosis, diabetes and cancer, too.
pectin has been proven to specifically target LDL ( " bad " ) cholesterol. After demonstrating that pectin lowered the cholesterol in pigs by 25 percent, James J. Cerda, M.D., professor of gastroenterology and nutrition at University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, set out to study humans.
Twenty-seven people were randomly given either pectin or placebo supplements, without either researchers or patients knowing who got what pills. In just four weeks' time, the pectin group recorded over a 10 percent drop in LDL cholesterol. And these weren't health fanatics. " We took what I call 'Joe Sixpacks,' people who were real diehard couch potatoes with elevated cholesterol levels, " says Dr. Cerda. " Besides the pectin, we let them eat whatever they wanted. "
But there's more to the pectin story than cholesterol. New research has shown that it can battle a number of man's most fearsome health foes:
- Atherosclerosis . pectin has been linked to dramatically reduced atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. A recent study published in Circulation reported on pigs placed on high-fat diets, and then separated into pectin-supplemented, bran-supplemented and control groups. After one year, the pigs on the pectin diet had a remarkable 62 percent reduction in atherosclerosis. Dr. Cerda asserts, " While we can't be sure the same results would be found in humans, we're encouraged by the fact that a pig's heart is very similar to a human's. "
- Diabetes . pectin has a positive effect on glucose tolerance, which is good news for diabetics looking to control their insulin levels with as little medication as possible.
- Cancer . A modified variety of pectin shows great promise as an inhibitor of cancer metastasis (the spreading of tumor cells). Since circulating cancer cells are the major cause of death in patients, not the stationary tumor from which they originate, this is very exciting news. And unlike costly drug or radiation treatments currently used to kill off spreading cancer cells with an overall toxic blast, modified pectin appears to tailor its effort toward cancer cells alone and so works without side effects. Although research is still at a preliminary stage, some major reports are on the verge of release.
How much pectin do you need to get a beneficial effect The researchers we spoke to recommended roughly the amount contained in five servings of fruits or vegetables: 15 grams a day. pectin is most plentiful in citrus fruits, with grapefruit leading the pack with as much as 4 grams of edible pectin. Other good sources include beets, oranges and apples. One place pectin isn't found is juice: The extraction process leaves most of the pectin behind. Dr. Cerda emphasizes that pectin is not a quick-fix solution to lowering cholesterol. But as part of a complete program including a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and regular exercise, it's yet another weapon in the war to keep you healthy.