A new study confirms yet one more reason why it pays to eat your fruits and vegetables. Turns out the gelatinous substance pectin, which naturally occurs in all fruits and vegetables, protects against cancer.
While the benefits of pectin have been known for some time, this study sheds light on how pectin works specifically in fighting cancer cells. A research team at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, England, discovered that a substance in pectin binds to a tumor-producing protein called galectin 3. Galectin 3 allows cancer cells to detach from tumors and to reattach elsewhere, and so it’s a major factor in the spread of cancer. But pectin blocks the activity of galectin 3 and in so doing, may prevent the progression of cancer within the body.
What exactly is pectin? It’s a complex carbohydrate found in the walls of plant cells. When it interacts with acid, it produces new molecular components, including the substance, galactose, that binds to galectin 3. (Theoretically, it would seem that your stomach acid could provide that activation, provided you’re still producing sufficient stomach acid.) You may know pectin as a substance used to solidify jams and jellies, and so the question arises: does “jamming” yourself full of jam protect you from cancer? Probably, not so much. The researchers point out while the process of making jam may activate the “good” effects of the pectin and provide some protection, the high sugar content and additives in commercial jams would most likely counteract the benefits (a good reason to choose all-fruit jam).
Studies last year confirmed that pectin does, in fact, actively work in combating cancer. A research team at the University of Georgia found that pectin destroyed up to 40 percent of prostate cancer cells upon exposure, while other studies revealed that pectin helps in fighting lung and colon cancers. And in fact, apple pectin was used after Chernobyl to extract radioactive waste from victims. Other benefits of natural pectin include protecting against hypertension, gallstones, cholesterol damage, ulcers, colitis, constipation, diarrhea, and diabetes damage.
You’ll also find apple pectin in high-quality intestinal cleansing formulas. As I explain in my newsletter on colon detoxing, pectin removes “unwanted toxins and heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminum, etc.), lowers cholesterol, and reduces the side effects of exposure to radiation.” It binds water and toxins together and bulks the stool, and thus carries toxins from the body.
Modified citrus pectin is another pectin worth looking at. Numerous studies have supported its use in dealing with multiple cancers — including prostate cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma. Modified citrus pectin is particularly rich in galactose, the substance described above that binds to galectins on the surface of cancer cells, resulting in an inhibition, or blocking, of cancer cell aggregation, adhesion, and metastasis.
The researchers note that their findings on pectin are preliminary, but they intend to continue investigating to see if they can isolate the active components of pectin (in case there are any beyond galactose) to increase its impact in combating cancer. Translated to techno-speak, “Bioactivity resides in the neutral sugar side chains of pectin polysaccharides, and …these components could be isolated and modified to optimize bioactivity,” says lead researcher Vic Morris.
While the scientists continue to dissect, isolate, and modify the stuff to make it “better,” you can get your fill of pectin by eating plenty of raw vegetables and fruits and an occasional gob of all-fruit jam. To increase your intake even more — and especially to reap benefits such as protection from cardiovascular damage, hypertension, and cancer — go to the health food store and peruse the selection of pectin supplements. You can also get pectin working for you by doing an intestinal cleanse that contains pectin — or using such a formula as part of a daily maintenance program.