Background: We found in preliminary studies with hamsters that citrus peels have a cholesterol lowering effect comparable to that of pectin extracted from these peels.
Aim of the study: We wanted to examine whether the cholesterol lowering effect of the peels could be completely accounted for by the pectin in the peels.
Methods: We fed cholesterol enriched (0.1 %,w/w) semipurified diets containing 3% (w/w) of cellulose, lemon peels, lemon pectin, and the waste stream material of the lemon peels to hybrid F1B hamsters for a period of 8 weeks. The waste stream of the lemon peels is the left over after extraction of the lemon pectin.
Results: Feeding the semipurified diets resulted in an increase of plasma cholesterol levels in all the dietary groups after 2 and 4 weeks on the diets. Cholesterol concentrations in the cellulose fed hamsters continued to increase after 4 weeks on the diet, whereas cholesterol levels in the other groups had reached a plateau. As a consequence, the plasma cholesterol levels in the hamsters fed the peels (5.59 +/- 0.74 mmol/L, mean +/- SD, n = 14), pectin (5.19 +/- 0.48 mmol/L), or waste stream (5.53 +/- 0.94 mmol/L) were lower than those in the hamsters fed cellulose (6.71 +/- 1.52 mmol/L) after 8 weeks on the diets. Differences in total plasma cholesterol were reflected in differences in both VLDL and LDL cholesterol concentration, but this effect was more distinct for the VLDL. There was no effect of the type of fiber on HDL cholesterol levels. Liver cholesterol concentrations paralleled. the concentrations of plasma cholesterol and the liver cholesterol concentrations in the hamsters fed the peels (3.57+/- 1.01 micromol/g liver, mean +/- SD, n = 14), pectin (4.86 +/- 1.42), and the waste stream (4.96 +/- 1.89) were lower than those in the cellulose group (7.19 +/- 2.32). The hamsters fed the peels, pectin, or waste stream tended to have a higher excretion of fecal bile acids and neutral sterols then the cellulose fed hamsters.
Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that lemon peels and the waste stream of the lemon peels are as effective in lowering plasma and liver cholesterol in hamsters as the pectin extracted from the peels and that also compounds other than pectin are probably responsible for the cholesterol lowering effect of the citrus peels.