Apple pectin may protect against metabolic syndrome

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Metabolic syndrome Nutrition Insulin

A highly methoxylated apple pectin (HMAP) may counter changes in
metabolism and cardiovascular health associated with the metabolic
syndrome, according to a study from Spain.

Zucker rats, an animal model of genetic obesity and the human metabolic syndrome, fed a high-fat diet and supplemented with the pectin experienced similar cholesterol reductions as animals supplemented with beta-glucan, according to research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry .

"This finding is important because beta-glucan is a fibre with well-known hypocholesterolaemic effects, to the extent that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows cardiovascular risk reduction claims for oat beta-glucan," wrote the authors from the University Complutense and the Hospital Central de la Defensa (CDEAS) and Natraceutical company.

If the results can be repeated in humans, it may see HMAP establish itself as a health ingredient against metabolic syndrome, a condition that affects an estimated 15 per cent of adult Europeans, and a staggering 32 per cent of American adults.

"These results warrant evaluation in humans to determine if HMAP could be used as a functional ingredient to reduce lipid profile, insulin resistance, and other cardiometabolic risk factors," wrote the authors.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a condition characterised by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism.

The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both type 2 diabetes and CVD.

Study details The researchers divided 30 female Zucker rats into three equal groups, and fed them a standard diet (control group), or the standard diet supplemented with 10 per cent HMAP (apple pectin with 73 per cent methylation degree, provided by Obipektin, a division of Natraceutical), or the standard diet supplemented with beta-glucan (oat bran concentrate provided by Glambia Nutritionals) for seven weeks.

At the end of the study, a significant reduction in body weight, total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose levels were observed in the HMAP group, compared to the beta-glucan group, report the researchers.

Furthermore, consumption of both fibres was associated with reductions in blood insulin levels and in the indices of insulin resistance and insulin secretion.

Interestingly, these characteristics were similar in animals fed HMAP and lean control animals.

"It is worth mentioning that HMAP has demonstrated itself to be more efficient than beta-glucan in preventing some of these cardiovascular risk factors related to metabolic syndrome," wrote the authors.

"The difference in the chemical structure of HMAP and beta-glucan, responsible for their physical properties, may explain the more remarkable results obtained in this study when HMAP was used.

"More studies with these fibres are nevertheless desirable, and the use of other experimental models may help to completely elucidate the mechanism(s) involved in HMAP effects," they concluded.

According to Natraceutical, the Obipektin HMAP has an ultra low viscosity, enabling it to reportedly enrich healthy and functional drinks without changing remarkable to viscosity of the product.

It also has a neutral taste.

Pectin and health The potentially health-promoting effects of pectin are not new, with other studies reporting the positive effects of the fibre, including potential prebiotic activity.

However, in the current health claims environment most pectin producers do emphasise the healthy aspect of the ingredient.

A team of representatives from Natraceutical told "Our HMAP is a healthy ingredient.

But if the manufacturer doesn't use the right process, HMAP can lose some properties.

Usually we work close with our customers to help them to preserve the properties of our ingredients, and we recommend the best way to use pectin.

"The legislation regarding health claims is more strict every year.

So, in our opinion, it should be the manufacturer who has to be sure before they add a health claim into their product."

Despite the reluctance of the pectin producers in general, the Natraceutical team did think this stance would evolve.

"As the food trends goes more and more in to functional ingredients we can look forward to have more and more knowledge from producers all over the world how to use pectin as a health ingredient," they said.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2008, Volume 56, Issue 10, Pages 3574-3581 "Highly Methoxylated Pectin Improves Insulin Resistance and Other Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Zucker Fatty Rats" Authors: D. Sanchez, B. Muguerza, L. Moulay, R. Hernández, M. Miguel, and A. Aleixandre

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