Pectin is a complex carbohydrate which cannot be absorbed from the intestinal system. It is used in the food industry as a thickening agent and in the production of jams and jellies. Several studies have shown pectin to have positive influences on decreasing serum cholesterol levels, without effecting serum triglyceride levels. Pectin has also shown the ability to reduce the rise of blood sugar when combined with a meal. These effects have been demonstrated in both healthy individuals and those with diabetes (Jenkins).
Pectin has also shown to have the ability to reduce satiety in obese individuals (DiLonrenzo). To test whether this safe effect can be seen in healthy subjects, researchers at the US Army and Department of Clinical Investigation at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, gave pectin to 74 US Army volunteers. Forty-nine were male, and 25 were female. These volunteers fasted overnight then fed 450 ml of orange juice on 2 separate days followed 4 hours later by 470 ml of ice cream. On 1 of the 2 days, 5, 10, or 20 grams of pectin was mixed with the orange juice. Satiety was measured on a visual analog scale before and at 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 hours after orange juice and at 0, 30, and 60 minutes after ice cream. The results showed significant differences in satiety as a function of beverage and time, but not pectin dose. The effect lasted up to 4 hours after ingesting pectin and orange juice and for 60 minutes after a second meal consisting of ice cream.
The researchers say, "Pectin in doses as small as 5 g mixed with orange juice increases satiety and can aid in a program to reduce weight by limiting food intake."
DiLorenzo C, Williams CM, Hajnal P, Valenzuaela JE. Pectin delays gastric emptying and increases satiety in obese subjects. Gastroenterology 95:1211-1215, 1988.
Jenkins DJ, Leeds AR, Gassull MA, et al. Decrease in postprandial insulin and glucose concentrations by guar and pectin. Ann Intern Med 86:2023, 1977.
Tiwary CM, Ward JA, Jackson BA. Effect of pectin on satiety in healthy UA Army adults. J Amer College of Nutrition 16:(5):423-428, 1997.
Comments: The search for ways to reduce weight in obese individuals is never-ending. After the recent Fen-Phen debacle, it is even more imperative that scientists discover safe ways for overweight individuals to shed pounds. It appears that ingesting certain fibers could play a role. Pectin is certainly one possibility. However, there could be many others that could be beneficial, including psyllium. One significant uncertainty is whether overconsumption of these fibers could somehow interfere with the absorption of certain vitamin, nutrients, and minerals. However, for the time being, it appears that adding a small amount of pectin or other fiber supplement to a meal would seem like a reasonable approach to enhance satiety, and certainly much safer than currently available pharmaceutical approaches.