Pectin is a complex carbohydrate that is found both in and in between the cell walls of plants. The role of pectin in plants is to regulate the flow of water among cells and help them maintain their structure. The best natural sources of pectin are apples, plums, peaches, currants, and carrots.
As a supplement, pectin in usually associated with providing significant symptom relief for people who suffer with gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea because it acts as a thickening agent. There is also research suggesting that pectin has some ability to induce apoptosis (cell suicide) and inhibit proliferation of human prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. (Jackson 2007; Yan 2010)
Modified Citrus Pectin
A form of pectin used in cancer studies is modified citrus pectin, which is created when citrus pectin undergoes a manufacturing process that causes the pectin molecules to become shorter and less complex than regular citrus pectin molecules. This process makes modified citrus pectin more easily absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and better able to dissolve in water, qualities that enhance the potency of the supplements.
Modified citrus pectin is rich in substances called galactoside residues, which are attracted to certain types of cancer cells. This characteristic makes modified citrus pectin able to inhibit or block the aggregation, binding, and metastasis of cancer cells, including prostate cancer cells. Here are just a few of the many studies that have revealed the anticancer potential of modified citrus pectin.
Modified Citrus Pectin and Prostate Cancer
In an early rat study, researchers looked at the ability of modified citrus pectin to inhibit the binding of rat prostate cancer cells to endothelial cells. Four groups of rats were given varying amounts of modified citrus pectin in their water for 26 days after they were injected with cancer cells. Half or nearly half of the rats in the groups that had received 0.1% or 1.0% modified citrus pectin had significant reductions in cancer that spread to the lungs than rats that had received little (0.01%) or no modified citrus pectin. (Pienta 1995)
Some studies have looked specifically at prostate cancer. One of them was conducted by scientists from Columbia University Medical Center, who tested two forms of modified citrus pectin, 1.0% PectaSol and 1.0% PectaSol-C and their impact on human and mouse prostate cancer cell lines and a human BPH cell line in the lab. Both of the modified citrus pectin products were similarly effective against the human prostate cells and the BPH cell lines in terms of inhibiting cell proliferation, and the PectaSol-C was slightly better than PectaSol against the mouse prostate cancer cell lines. (Yan 2010)
In studies conducted by Dr. Stephen Strum, an oncologist who specializes in prostate cancer, he and his team found that men with advanced prostate cancer who did not respond to conventional treatment had a positive response (an increase in PSA doubling time or no increase in PSA) after they took modified citrus pectin daily for three months or longer. (Strum 1999) In another study, Strum and his colleagues evaluated Pecta-Sol in 13 men who had prostate cancer and PSA failure after they had radiation, cryosurgery, or radical prostatectomy. After the men took modified citrus pectin for 12 months, PSA double time increased in 7 of 10 men. The findings suggest that modified citrus pectin may improve PSA doubling time in men who have recurrent prostate cancer. (Guess 2003)
Modified Citrus Pectin and Other Cancers
An early study conducted at Wayne State University involved feeding mice either modified citrus pectin in their drinking water or plain drinking water, and then injecting them with human breast cancer or colon cancer cells. The modified citrus pectin significantly reduced tumor growth, angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels that nourish cancer tumors), and metastasis when compared with the control mice. (Nangia-Makker 2002) In another animal study, modified citrus pectin helped inhibit the spread of colon cancer to the liver. (Liu 2008)
Modified Citrus Pectin and Other Health Benefits
Another health benefit of modified citrus pectin is its ability to help rid the body of toxic heavy metals. Unlike chelation therapy, a chemical process for eliminating heavy metals that usually requires intravenous infusions of compounds, modified citrus pectin is taken in an oral form and increases the urinary excretion of the toxins.
The chelation ability of modified citrus pectin can be seen in a number of studies. In one, eight healthy volunteers took 15 grams of modified citrus pectin daily for five days and increased their intake to 20 grams on day six. Urine samples revealed that between days one and six, there was a 150 percent increase in the amount of cadmium and a 560 percent increase in the amount of lead eliminated by the participants. At the same time, the subjects did not lose essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc. (Eliaz 2006) Similar positive results were seen in a study that involved children who had toxic levels of lead. Fifteen grams of modified citrus pectin (PectaSol) daily led to a significant decline in lead levels. (Zhao 2008)
How to Take Modified Citrus Pectin
You can purchase modified citrus pectin as a powder and as capsules. The recommendations of the manufacturers differ: some suggest taking 5 grams of the powder three times daily with meals and mixed with liquid. Others suggest taking modified citrus pectin on an empty stomach with dosages ranging from 6 to 30 grams daily in divided doses. If you choose capsules, a suggested dose is 1 to 6 capsules (800 mg each) taken three times daily with food. (Douglas Labs)
Modified citrus pectin rarely causes side effects when you take it as recommended by your healthcare provider or supplement makers. However, some people do experience stomach discomfort, and you may have a serious allergic reaction if you have an allergy to citrus fruit. A few reports have been made of individuals who developed asthma after they used the powdered form of pectin. (American Cancer Society)
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/…/modified-citrus-pectin
Douglas Labs Product Data: http://www.douglaslabs.com/pdf/pds/82046.pdf
Eliaz I et al. The effect of modified citrus pectin on urinary excretion of toxic elements. Phytother Res 2006 Oct; 20(10): 859-64
Guess BW et al. Modified citrus pectin (MCP) increases the prostate-specific antigen doubling time in men with prostate cancer: a phase II pilot study. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis 2003; 6(4): 301-4
Jackson CL et al. Pectin induces apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells: correlation of apoptotic function with pectin structure. Glycobiology 2007 Aug; 17(8): 805-19
Liu HY et al. Inhibitory effect of modified citrus pectin on liver metastases in a mouse colon cancer model. World J Gastroenterol 2008 Dec 28; 14(48): 7386-91
Nangia-Makker P et al. Inhibition of human cancer cell growth and metastasis in nude mice by oral intake of modified citrus pectin. J Natl Cancer Inst 2002 Dec 18; 94(24): 1854-62
Pienta KJ et al. Inhibition of spontaneous metastasis in a rat prostate cancer model by oral administration of modified citrus pectin. J Natl Cancer Inst 1995 Mar 1; 87(5): 348-53
Strum S et al. Modified citrus pectin slows PSA doubling time: a pilot clinical trial. Paper presented at International Conference on Diet and Prevention of Cancer, May 1999; Tampere Finland.
Yan J, Katz A. PectaSol-C modified citrus pectin induces apoptosis and inhibition of proliferation in human and mouse androgen-dependent and –independent prostate cancer cells. Integr Cancer Ther 2010 Jun; 9(2): 197-203
Zhao ZY et al. The role of modified citrus pectin as an effective chelator of lead in children hospitalized with toxic lead levels. Altern Ther Health Med 2008 Jul; 14(4): 34-38