Background/objectives: Viscous fibers typically reduce total cholesterol (TC) by 3-7% in humans. The cholesterol-lowering properties of the viscous fiber pectin may depend on its physico-chemical properties (viscosity, molecular weight (MW) and degree of esterification (DE)), but these are not typically described in publications, nor required by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) with respect to its generic pectin cholesterol-lowering claim.
Subjects/methods: Here, different sources and types of well-characterized pectin were evaluated in humans. Cross-over studies were completed in mildly hyper-cholesterolemic persons receiving either 15 g/day pectin or cellulose with food for 4 weeks.
Results: Relative low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (LDL-C) lowering was as follows: citrus pectin DE-70=apple pectin DE-70 (7-10% reduction versus control)>apple pectin DE-35=citrus pectin DE-35>OPF (orange pulp fiber) DE-70 and low-MW pectin DE-70>citrus DE-0. In a subsequent 3-week trial with 6 g/day pectin, citrus DE-70 and high MW pectin DE-70 reduced LDL-C 6-7% versus control (without changes in TC). In both studies, high DE and high MW were important for cholesterol lowering. Source may also be important as citrus and apple DE-70 pectin were more effective than OPF DE-70 pectin. Pectin did not affect inflammatory markers high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) nor plasma homocysteine.
Conclusions: Pectin source and type (DE and MW) affect cholesterol lowering. The EFSA pectin cholesterol-lowering claim should require a minimum level of characterization, including DE and MW.