Nutrition Notes

The Role of Citrus Pectin in Cellular Health and Immunometabolism

Citrus pectin is a molecule derived from citrus peels that is modified for commercial use to help support absorption in the small intestine. Oligosaccharides derived from citrus pectin are classified as nondigestible carbohydrates (NDC). Recent research indicates that NDCs may help support immunometabolism. NDCs may help support a healthy inflammatory response through their influence on toll-like receptor (TLR) 2 ectodomains and lipopolysaccharide-induced TLR4 activation. 

Evidence suggests that pectin oligosaccharides may influence cytokines related to the inflammatory response. Laboratory studies have observed changes in the messenger RNA expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-10, anti-inflammatory cytokines in the presence of pectin oligosaccharides.

Pectin oligosaccharides may also help support the gut microbiome. Pectin-derived microbial metabolites may help support normal inflammation through the production of certain pathogen-sensitive bacteriocins. An animal study involving the administration of pectin oligosaccharides reported improvements in cholesterol metabolism through the modulation of gut microbial metabolites. Pectin oligosaccharides may also help support the diversity of species in the gut microbiome and help promote the formation of health-supportive metabolites, such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs, such as butyrate and propionate, may help support the body’s response to inflammation by helping attenuate the activation of nuclear factor-kappa B. 

Modified citrus pectin is likely best known for its supportive role in cellular health. It has been shown to help support antioxidative status, detoxification pathways, and immune health. Preclinical studies have reported the potential impact of citrus pectin on certain tumor cell lines through the modulation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 and Galectin (Gal)-3 activity. Several animal studies have observed the prevention of myocardial fibrosis in the presence of citrus pectin. Other animal studies have also reported that citrus pectin may help support the reduction of atherosclerotic lesions and aortic dilation. 

In human studies, modified citrus pectin was shown to help support the body’s detoxification pathways in the presence of the toxicity of certain heavy metals, including lead, uranium, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. Modified citrus pectin has also been shown to exhibit synergistic qualities in support of antioxidative status

In a recent clinical study, a nutraceutical containing modified citrus pectin was observed to help support certain aspects of prostate health. However, the study design did not include a placebo group, and more research is needed before clinical conclusions can be made. 

Emerging evidence suggests that citrus pectin may support cellular health and the body’s inflammatory response. Citrus pectin may also support antioxidative status and certain aspects of immune health. 

By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT