The common food ingredient pectin may be more valuable than thought as it has significant prebiotic properties, claims a US scientist.
Pectin, derived mainly from waste citrus peel, is used as a gelling agent and to stabilise confectionery products. However a scientist at the US Agricultural Research Service and colleagues at the University of Reading in the UK maintain that orange peel is an abundant source of carbohydrates that have multiple health-promoting properties.
In vitro tests by Arland T. Hotchkiss show that pectin acts as a prebiotic, preventing pathogens from binding to the intestine and increasing the growth of probiotic bacteria in the large intestine. Probiotic bacteria are thought to stimulate gut health.
While probiotics are increasingly associated with health benefits by consumers, prebiotic carbohydrates, or oligosaccharides, are just beginning to be used in food products and in animal feeds. Research confirming the mechanism behind prebiotics is still lacking.
Hotchkiss and his colleagues are developing novel, cost-effective methods to extract pectic prebiotics, which could benefit citrus growers and processors by adding value to these byproducts. The ARS is also looking for a commercial partner to further develop the technology.