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Grapefruit pectin is a soluble fiber found in the rind, skins, and at a lower concentration, the flesh of grapefruit. The most notable and well studied benefit of this citrus pectin is its ability to lower blood cholesterol levels. Grapefruit pectin provides this benefit by increasing the density of food in the stomach, which prevents the digestion and absorption of cholesterol. This attribute also makes citrus pectin a good regulator of blood sugar and helps to reduce constipation.
The pectin found in grapefruit is a complex carbohydrate, also known as a starch, and is composed of chains of sugar molecules. Grapefruit is a large yellow or yellow-pink skinned citrus fruit. The rind and skin of the raw grapefruit contains the greatest amount of citrus pectin, the flesh contains only a small amount, and grapefruit juice contains either a negligible amount of pectin or no pectin at all. A primary health benefit of the pectin found in grapefruit is to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. This benefit has been extensively studied and is well established.
Grapefruit pectin lowers cholesterol by amplifying the density of the food in the stomach. Bulking of the digesting food decreases the absorption and uptake of cholesterol. As a result, cholesterol is bound up in the digested material and passes out of the body.
Cholesterol is an important component in the synthesis of hormones, formation of new cells, and in the maintenance of nerves. The liver typically produces all of the cholesterol needed by the body. Eating high cholesterol foods augments the concentration of cholesterol in the blood. Excess cholesterol, left over after the physiological requirements, will adhere to the lining of the blood vessels, causing arteriosclerosis, or narrowing the arteries, and increase blood pressure. Lowering blood cholesterol with soluble fibers, such as grapefruit pectin, helps to prevent arteriosclerosis.
Citrus pectin has other health benefits. The complex carbohydrates in grapefruit pectin impede the uptake of sugar and help to control blood sugar levels. This type of pectin is also a natural stool softener, preventing or reducing constipation and the painful impact of chronic constipation on the body. Grapefruit pectin also has the added benefit of making the stomach feel full, which may reduce the amount of food consumed, decrease the feelings of hunger, and aid in weight management. Preliminary studies have shown that modified citrus pectin, a more easily digestible form of citrus pectin, may slow the metastasis of prostate, skin, and breast cancer.