What is it?
The health benefits of modified citrus pectin fiber have been on a back-burner since studies first showed this highly absorbable soluble fiber might lead to a decrease in coronary plaquing. Modified citrus pectin is a form of pectin. Pectin is present in many fruits such as apples, plums, and citrus. It is also a chain of pectic acid and pectinic acid molecules which the GI tract absorbs poorly. Modified citrus pectin is chemically changed to allow efficient absorption by the digestive tract resulting in increased absorption into the bloodstream.
Gut health part 1: Where the health benefits of modified citrus pectin fiber begin
Proper gut health means an absence of GI symptoms of course. Regular, soft bowel movements are essential. We also need a perfectly intact GI tract lining meaning no leaky gut. Lastly, a balanced gut microbiome is also necessary which translates to having the right, healthy bacterial balance.
For these reasons, I believe that the health benefits of modified citrus pectin fiber do indeed start in the gut. The first gut re-inforcing function comes from the powerful water-holding abilities inherent in the (soluble fiber) pectin in modified citrus pectin fiber.
This pectin binds to water in the intestines and forms a (probably GI-lining-protective) gel to help prevent constipation. It’s not immediate constipation relief, but if you have chronic constipation, MCP and lots of fluids will help. Not only that; MCP is a prebiotic fibre; giving probiotics “something to munch!”
Gut health part 2: Butyric Acid
Butyric acid is important and probably mandatory for gut health. Reports reveal it helps create and maintain an anti-inflammatory environment in the gut. The pectin in modified citrus pectin ferments and forms butyric acid, with the assistance of butyrate-producing bacteria such as Clostridium butyricumin. Clinical studies show not having enough butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut can lead to serious problems such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and even colorectal cancer.
Butyric acid also binds to certain mutagens, as the proposed mechanism of action in the colon. Butyric acid in the distal (final part of the) colon also increases intestinal transit (evacuation). Further, butyric acid is present in our diets. For example, it is in butter and ghee in the largest amounts. It is also present in animals fats and plant oils.
As an “aside,” let me discuss a “cousin” of butyric acid which is the ketone, beta-hydroxy-butyrate. BHB is the main ketone formed when following a nutritional ketosis diet. It is beneficial to the development of a healthier gut microbiome. This is relevant since healthy fats such as grass-fed butter and ghee are increased in healthy ketogenic diets, and MCP is the perfect bulking fiber supplement to augment these diets to avoid any constipation for a double dose of help for your gut.
Cancer prevention is one of the best potential benefits of modified citrus pectin
The compound galectin-3 is a protein now being used as a bio-marker for several degenerative diseases. Those diseases include liver fibrosis, heart failure, certain types of kidney disease, and even cancer. The development of galectin-3 inhibitors by the pharmaceutical industry is underway. Meanwhile, multiple studies have demonstrated that modified citrus pectin will inactivate galectin-3. Let’s discuss galectin-3 and the implications of MCP use.
Scientific evidence suggests that galectin-3 does more than serve as a bio-marker for cancer. It apparently actively participates in cancer cell growth. Galectin-3 expression can increase cancer cell growth and increase invasion and adhesion of cancer cells to blood vessel linings. It also helps the cancerous cells communicate with each other, adhere readily to each other, multiply more rapidly, and metastasize away from the primary tumor.
In addition, the excess galectin-3 produced by cancer cells helps the malignant cells communicate, stick together, rapidly multiply, grow necessary new blood vessels, and evade the normal programmed cell death called apoptosis. With the advent of new anti-galactin-3 pharmaceuticals, research on MCP has now waned. But, again, MCP fiber has been shown to inactivate gal-3 and lessen the incidence of metastatic disease in several types of cancer.
For this reason, the Susan B Koman foundation website lists modified citrus pectin as an adjuvant to traditional treatment to help prevent metastatic breast cancer. Doses used in clinical studies which showed a reduction in metastatic disease were 5 grams, 3x times daily.
Heart Failure and Galectin-3
People hospitalized with heart failure who have admission galectin-3 levels greater than 18 ng/mL have close to three times the odds of readmission with recurrent heart failure at 30 days.
They also have approximately three times the odds of readmission by 90 days; both cohorts are compared to those having galectin-3 levels below around 18 ng/mL.
As with cancer, galectin-3 also plays a major causative role in the development of heart disease. Clinical studies with MCP reveal it could be a mitigating factor in cardiac fibrosis with positive findings using the same dosing as above.
However, due to the development of pharmaceuticals to block fibrosis in the lungs, liver, and kidneys, there has been no further research on MCP (which is a shame.) If you follow my blog, you know how I feel about pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals generate large sums of money compared to “nutritionals” which is why we don’t see as many studies as we should on great integrative therapies.
Modified Citrus Pectin Chelates Toxic Heavy Metals
I always tell patients that if they have fillings containing mercury and they chew at all, they have some mercury in their bloodstream. Is it toxic? I can’t tell until we measure. Our environment is getting more dangerous. We have lead leeching into our drinking water due to our decaying infrastructure. How do you really know what’s in your water? If you’re showering in it, you’re absorbing a possible world of toxins.
What about fish? When caught reliably wild, the right species of fish are incredibly healthy and full of omega-3 fatty acids. However, do you always know what you are getting? Under-cover news reports have found as much as 50% of restaurant and grocery store fish isn’t what they advertise. You might not know, for instance, that tuna sushi you just love is incredibly high in mercury. So, wouldn’t it be nice to know of something that chelates heavy metals? Well, here you go!
An early study done in 2006 showed that modified citrus pectin promoted significant increases in urinary excretion of toxic metals in subjects with non-toxic levels of heavy metals. Urine samples were positive for arsenic, cadmium, and lead. The study suggested that systemic chelation of toxic metals by MCP might be due to the pectin’s rhamnogalacturonan II; shown to be a metal chelator.
Two more studies subsequently showed up to a 74% reduction in heavy metal loads with the addition of modified citrus pectin fiber supplements to the diets of the study participants. Does it bind other toxins? Specifically biotoxins such as mold toxins? THis hasn’t been specifically studied but in my opinion, it does.
When I extrapolate data from all of these studies, it appears that 5 grams (one TBSP) of MCP fiber powder will be effective for constipation, gut protection and likely some cancer prevention benefits as well. If you have an inflammatory bowel disorder, leaky gut, heart failure, or active cancer, please consult with your health care provider regarding what is the optimal dosing for you.
2018 Research update:
Several studies published within this past year reveal a strong connection to Rheumatoid arthritis control and levels of galectin 3. Ongoing studies looking at various other autoimmune diseases look promising, as well.
References (with others available upon request):
Modified citrus pectin anti-metastatic properties: one bullet, multiple targets