What’s the difference between natural pectin and “modified” pectin? Well, for starters, natural pectin is a sugary carbohydrate found in ripe fruits, and modified pectin 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. The following fruits already contain quite a lot of it:
- stone fruits, such as peaches and apricots
- most citrus fruits
Modified citrus pectin (MCP) usually comes in powder form. Some say it could be beneficial in the fight against prostate cancer and other cancers. Some say it can treat high cholesterol. But do these claims hold up to study? Read on to find out.
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 it’s converted to a form that’s more easily absorbed. That means your body can benefit from more than just pectin’s fibrous properties.
If you shop for MCP, you’ll see a variety of health claims. Blood detoxification, cellular health, and ridding your body of heavy metals are among the benefits attributed to MCP. Unfortunately, science does not substantiate these miracle claims.
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. For example, the Susan G. Komen breast cancer educational organization says that MCP is often used in breast cancer therapy to prevent metastasis, or the spread of cancer to other organs.
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, and supplements don’t always provide the same benefits as naturally occurring substances.
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.
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.
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.
You should avoid MCP if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, as studies do not yet confirm its safety in these populations. As with any supplement, consult your doctor before using MCP.
- 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.
Since MCP is a supplement, it is not regulated well by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). MCP isn’t known to be dangerous, but it’s also not a miracle drug. Medical understanding of its ability to cure or slow cancer is limited. It appears to have an effect on lowering cholesterol, but more study is needed. MCP is generally considered to be harmless in suggested doses, but a balanced diet and regular exercise are the best indicators of long-term health.