8 Questions About Modified Citrus Pectin

What’s the difference between natural pectin and “modified” pectin? Well, for starters, natural pectin is a sugary carbohydrate found in ripe fruits, and the other is a powder you buy at the pharmacy.

Jams and preserves use natural pectin as a setting agent for fruits that don’t contain enough of it. Berries, stone fruits like peaches and apricots, and most citrus fruits already contain quite a lot of it.

Modified citrus pectin (MCP), meanwhile, usually comes in powder form. Some say it could possibly be beneficial in the fight against prostate cancer (and other cancers) as well as high cholesterol. But do these claims hold up to study? Read on to find out.

1. How Are Fruit Pectin and MCP Different?

Did You Know?
MCP is made only from citrus fruit.

Your intestines can’t absorb pectin in its natural form. This makes it an effective source of fiber. MCP has been altered to be absorbed into your bloodstream. The pectin from citrus is processed to make the molecules smaller and converted to a form that’s more easily absorbed. That means your body can benefit from more than just pectin’s fibrous properties.

2. What Are the Medical Claims?

If you shop for MCP, you’ll see a variety of health claims. Blood detoxification, cellular health, ridding your body of heavy metals, and even “daily disease prevention” are among the more vague properties attributed to MCP. Unfortunately, these health miracles are not substantiated by science.

3. What About Cancer?

Some people with cancer take MCP as a supplement because they’ve heard it reduces tumor growth. Unfortunately, studies so far have only looked at a few forms of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, early animal studies indicate MCP may prevent or slow the spread of prostate cancer and melanoma cells to other organs.

Lab studies on human cells show that MCP attaches to galectin-3, an element found on the surface of most cells. MCP attaches to the galectin-3 and stops the cell from attaching to other cells. Galectin-3 is overly abundant on many tumor cells and appears to help them spread (metastasize). MCP might be able to stop this process. 

Modified Citrus Pectin

4. Can It Lower Cholesterol?

Pectin acts as an effective source of dietary fiber. A diet high in fiber has been linked to lowering cholesterol. That might be why MCP is sold as an aid for lowering cholesterol. However, there are only limited studies that support its use. 

5. How Is MCP Taken?

You can buy MCP as a powder at health food markets, supplements stores, and online. Read the package directions for dosing. Most suggest dissolving powdered MCP with liquid and drinking it on an empty stomach. It’s also available in capsule form.

6. What if You Take Too Much?

Taking too much MCP isn’t very dangerous, but it might make your stomach hurt. It also could cause diarrhea, bloating, and gas. This is especially true if the form of MCP you’re taking includes extra fiber.

Diarrhea lasting more than a few days can cause severe dehydration.

7. Should I Be Concerned About Taking MCP?

If you use the powdered form of MCP, be careful not to accidentally inhale it, as the dust may irritate to your lungs. MCP may interfere with cholesterol-lowering medications. It also might interfere with the absorption of nutrients because it can be a source of dietary fiber. 

The supplement hasn’t been studied in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Avoid taking MCP if you fall into either of these populations — unless your doctor instructs you to take it. As with any supplement, consult your doctor before using MCP.

8. What Does the FDA Say?

Since MCP is bought and taken as a supplement, it’s not illegal in the United States. However, these supplements aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

MCP isn’t dangerous, but it’s also not a miracle drug. Medical understanding of its uses for curing or slowing cancer are limited. It appears to have an effect on lowering cholesterol, but more study is needed. MCP is generally harmless in suggested doses, but a balanced diet and regular exercise are the best indicators of long-term health.

The Takeaways

  • Pectin is modified so that your body can absorb it.
  • Some claim that MCP lowers cholesterol and slows cancer.
  • There is very little scientific evidence to back up major health claims.