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Pectin, a white to light brown powder, is a heterosaccharide derived from the cell wall of higher terrestrial plants. It was first isolated and described in 1825 by Henri Braconnot[1]. Image File history File links Portal. ... A heterosaccharide is a glycoside in which a sugar group is attached to a nonsugar group. ... Henri Braconnot Henri Braconnot (Commercy May 29, 1780 - Nancy January 15, 1855) was a French chemist and pharmacist. ...

It is mainly used in food as a gelling agent in jams and jellies. Today it is also used in fillings, sweets, as a stabiliser in fruit-juices and milk-drinks and as a source of dietary fiber in foods. Gelling agents are food additives used to thicken and stabilize various foods, like jellies, desserts and candies. ... Jam from berries Jam (also known as jelly or preserves) is a type of sweet spread or condiment made with fruits or sometimes vegetables, sugar, and sometimes pectin if the fruits natural pectin content is insufficient to produce a thick product. ... Dietary fibers are the indigestible portion of plant foods that move food through the digestive system, absorbing water. ...



The main use for pectin is as a gelling agent, thickening agent and stabilizer in food. The classical application is giving the jelly-like consistency to jams or marmalades, which would otherwise be sweet juices. For household use, pectin is an ingredient in jelling sugar (sometimes sold as “sugar with pectin”) where it is diluted to the right concentration with sugar and some citric acid to adjust pH. In some countries, pectin is also available as a solution or an extract, or as a blended powder, for home jam making. For conventional jams and marmalades that contain above 60% sugar and soluble fruit solids, high-ester pectins are used. With low-ester pectins and amidated pectins less sugar is needed, so that diet products can be made. Pectin can also be used to stabilize acidic protein drinks, such as drinking yogurt, and as a fat replacer. Typical levels of pectin used as a food additive are between 0.5 – 1.0 % - this is about the same amount of pectin as in fresh fruit.

Pectin increases viscosity and volume of stool so that it is used against constipation and diarrhea. Pectin is also used in throat lozenges. In cosmetic products, pectin acts as stabilizer. In wound healing preparations and specialty medical adhesives, such as colostomy devices. In ruminant nutrition, depending on the extent of signification of the cell wall, pectin is up to 90% digestible by bacterial enzymes. Ruminant nutritionists recommend that the digestibility and energy concentration in forages can be improved by increasing pectin concentration in the forage. Types 5-7 on the Bristol Stool Chart are often associated with diarrhea Diarrhea (in American English) or diarrhoea (in British English) is a condition in which the sufferer has frequent watery, loose bowel movements (from the Greek word διάρροια; literally meaning through-flowing). Acute infectious diarrhea is a common cause... This article does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... This article does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...


Pectin was first isolated and described in in 1825 by Henri Braconnot, though the action of pectin to make jams and marmalades was known long before. To obtain well set jams from fruits that had little or only poor quality pectin, pectin-rich fruits or their extracts were mixed into the recipe. Henri Braconnot Henri Braconnot (Commercy May 29, 1780 - Nancy January 15, 1855) was a French chemist and pharmacist. ...

During industrialization, the makers of fruit preserves soon turned to producers of apple juice to obtain dried apple pomace that was then cooked to extract pectin.

Later, in the 1920s and 1930s, factories were built that commercially extracted pectin from dried apple-pomace and later citrus-peel in regions that produced apple juice in both the USA and in Europe.

At first pectin was sold as a liquid extract, nowadays pectin is used as dried powder that is easier to store and handle than a liquid. [2]


Naturally, pectin in the form of complex, insoluble protopectin is part of the non-woody parts of terrestrial plants. In the middle lamella between plant cells, pectin helps to bind cells together and regulates water in the plant.

The amount and structure of the pectin differs between plants and also within a plant over time and in different parts of a plant. Tough parts contain more pectin than soft parts of a plant. During ripening, pectin is broken down, in this process the fruit gets softer as the cell walls break down.

Pectin is a natural part of human nutrition. The daily intake of pectin from fruit and vegetables can be estimated to be around 5 g (assuming approx. 500 g fruit and vegetable per day).

In human digestion, pectin is not used as nutrient, but passes through the small intestine more or less intact. In the large intestine and colon, microorganisms degrade pectin and liberate short-chain fatty acids that have positive influence on health (prebiotic effect). Pectin is thus a soluble dietary fiber. Dietary fibers are the indigestible portion of plant foods that move food through the digestive system, absorbing water. ...

Consumption of pectin has been shown to reduce blood-cholesterol levels. The mechanism appears to be an increase of viscosity in the intestinal tract, leading to a reduced absorption of cholesterol from bile or food.[3]


The characteristic structure of pectin is a linear chain of α-(1-4)-linked D-galacturonic acid that forms the pectin-backbone, a homogalacturonan. D-galacturonic acid is a sugar acid. ...

Into this backbone, there are regions where galacturonic acid is replaced by (1-2)-linked L-rhamnose. From rhamnose, sidechains of various neutral sugars branch off. This type of pectin is called rhamnogalacturonan I. Over all, up to every 25th galacturonic acid in the main chain is exchanged with rhamnose. Some stretches consisting of alternating galacturonic acid and rhamnose – “hairy regions”, others with lower density of rhamnose – “smooth regions”. The neutral sugars are mainly D-galactose, L-arabinose and D-xylose; the types and proportions of neutral sugars vary with the origin of pectin. Rhamnose is a naturally-occurring sugar. ... Galactose (also called brain sugar) is a type of sugar found in dairy products, in sugar beets and other gums and mucilages. ... Fischer projection of L-arabinose The chemical structure of D-arabinofuranose Arabinose is an aldopentose — a monosaccharide containing five carbon atoms, and including an aldehyde (CHO) functional group. ... Xylose or wood sugar is an aldopentose — a monosaccharide containing five carbon atoms and including an aldehyde functional group. ...

A third structural type of pectin is Rhamnogalacturonan II, which is a less frequent complex, highly branched polysaccharide.

Isolated pectin has a molecular weight of typically 60 - 130 000 g/mol, varying with origin and extraction conditions. The molecular mass of a substance (less accurately called molecular weight and abbreviated as MW) is the mass of one molecule of that substance, relative to the unified atomic mass unit u (equal to 1/12 the mass of one atom of carbon-12). ...

In nature, around 80% of carboxyl groups of galacturonic acid are esterified with methanol. This proportion is decreased more or less during pectin extraction. The ratio of esterified to non-esterified galacturonic acid determines the behavior of pectin in food applications. This is why pectins are classified as high- vs. low-ester pectins – or in short HM vs. LM-pectins, with more or less than half of all the galacturonic acid esterified.

The non-esterified galacturonic acid units can be either free acid or salts with sodium, potassium or calcium. The salt of partially esterified pectins are called pectinates, if the degree of esterification is below 5% the salts are called pectates, the insoluble acid form, pectic acid.

Some plants like sugar-beet, potatoes and pears contain pectins with acetylated galacturonic acid in addition to methyl esters. Acetylation prevents gel-formation but increases the stabilisating and emulsifying effects of pectin. Binomial name Solanum tuberosum L. The potato (Solanum tuberosum) is a perennial plant of the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family, commonly grown for its starchy tuber. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

Amidated pectin is a modified form of pectin. Here, some of the galacturonic acid is converted with ammonia to carboxylic acid amide. These pectins are more tolerant of varying calcium concentrations that occur in use. [4]

To prepare a pectin-gel, the ingredients are heated, dissolving the pectin. Upon cooling below gelling temperature, a gel starts to form. If gel formation is too strong, syneresis or a granular texture are the result, whilst weak gelling leads to excessively soft gels. In high-ester pectins at soluble solids content above 60% and a pH-value between 2.8 and 3.6, hydrogen-bonds and hydrophobic interactions bind the individual pectin chains together. These bonds form as water is bound by sugar and forces pectin strands to stick together. These form a 3-dimensional molecular net that creates the macromolecular gel. The gelling-mechanism is called a low-water-activity gel or sugar-acid-pectin gel.

In low-ester pectins, ionic bridges are formed between calcium and carboxylic acid of the galacturonic acid. This is idealised in the so-called “egg box-model”. Low-ester pectins need calcium to form a gel, but can do so at lower soluble solids and higher pH-values than high-ester pectins.

Amidated pectins behave like low-ester pectins but need less calcium and are more tolerant of excess calcium. Also, gels from amidated pectin are thermo-reversible – they can be heated and after cooling solidify again, whereas conventional pectin-gels will afterwards remain liquid.

Within high ester pectins, the speed by which pectin gels set is faster with higher than with lower ester pectins. On the other hand, reactions with calcium increases as the degree of esterification falls. Similary, lower pH-values or higher soluble solids (normally sugars) increase gelling speed. Suitable pectins can therefore be selected for jams and for jellies, or for higher sugar confectionery jellies.

Sources and Production

Apples, quince, plums, gooseberries and oranges contain much pectin, while soft fruits like cherries, grapes and strawberries contain little pectin. Species Malus domestica Malus sieversii Apple is the fruit (pome) of the genus Malus belonging to the family Rosaceae, and is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. ... Binomial name Cydonia oblonga Mill. ... It has been suggested that Prune (fruit) be merged into this article or section. ... Binomial name Ribes uva-crispa L. Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ribes uva-crispa See Cape Gooseberry for a tomato like fruit The Gooseberry Ribes uva-crispa (syn. ... Binomial name (L.) Osbeck Orange—specifically, sweet orange—refers to the citrus tree Citrus sinensis (syn. ... “Cherry tree” redirects here. ... - Species 20+ species; see text The strawberry (Fragaria) is a genus of plants in the family Rosaceae, and the fruit of these plants. ...

Typical levels of pectin in plants are (fresh weight):

apples, apricots approx. 1% Species Malus domestica Malus sieversii Apple is the fruit (pome) of the genus Malus belonging to the family Rosaceae, and is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. ... Binomial name Prunus armeniaca L. For other uses, see Apricot (disambiguation). ...

oranges 0.5 - 3.5% Binomial name (L.) Osbeck Orange—specifically, sweet orange—refers to the citrus tree Citrus sinensis (syn. ...

carrots approx. 1.4% Binomial name L. Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults. ...

The main raw-materials for pectin production are dried citrus peel or apple pomace, both by-products of juice production. Pomace from sugar-beet is also used to a small extent. Binomial name Borkh. ...

From these materials, pectin is extracted by adding hot dilute acid at pH-values from 1.5 – 3.5. During several hours of extraction, the protopectin loses some of its branching and chain-length and goes into solution. After filtering, the extract is concentrated in vacuum and the pectin then precipitated by adding ethanol or isopropanol. An old technique of precipitating pectin with aluminium salts is no longer used.(Apart from alcohols and polyvalent cations, pectin also precipitates with proteins and detergents).

Precipitated pectin is then separated, washed and dried. Treating the initial pectin with dilute acid leads to low-esterified pectins. When this process includes ammonium hydroxide, amidated pectins are obtained. After drying and milling pectin is usually standardised with sugar and sometimes calcium-salts or organic acids to have optimum performance in a particular application.[5]

Worldwide, approximately 40,000 metric tons of pectin are produced every year.

Legal status

Pectins, including high and low -ester and amidated, are used in food all over the world. At the FAO/WHO joint Expert Committee on Food Additives and in the EU, no numerical acceptable daily intake (ADI) has been set, as pectin is considered safe.[6]

In the US, pectin is GRAS – Generally recognized as safe. In most foods it can be used according to good manufacturing practices in the levels needed for its application, “quantum satis”. Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) is an FDA designation that a chemical or substance (including certain pesticides) added to food is considered safe by experts, and so is exempted from the usual FFDCA food additive tolerance requirements. ...

In the International Numbering System (INS) pectin has the number 440. In Europe it is differentiated into E440(i) for non-amidated pectins and E440 (ii) for amidated pectins. There are specifications in all national and international legislation defining its quality and regulating its use. The Codex Alimentarius (Latin for food law, food code, or food book) is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations relating to foods, food production and food safety under the aegis of consumer protection. ...

Recently, there have been safety issues with relatively hard and massive jelly-sweets packed individually in syrup, which can be swallowed whole, causing choking and potentially suffocation. Confectionery of this type, which is the size to lodge in the throat, has been banned in a number of countries.

European Union law does not permit a community-wide ban of the product-type. Food in this shape and consistency can be made with various gelling-agents, and their use in these gels has therefore been banned in the EU as a way of banning the production or import of the products. Pectin has been included in this ban because, although it has not been used to date, it potentially could be. This does not, of course, question the safety of any of these gelling agents in other products.


  1. ^ Braconnot, Henri. Keppler, Frank et al. Methane emissions from terrestrial plants under aerobic conditions. Nature 439, 187-190
  2. ^ International Pectin Producers Association - 13 June 2007
  3. ^ Pornsak Sriamornsak; Chemistry of Pectin and its Pharmaceutical Uses: A Review
  4. ^ H.-D. Belitz, W. Grosch, P. Schieberle; Food Chemistry; Springer, Berlin; April 2004
  5. ^ G. Eisenbrand, P. Schreier; RÖMPP Lexikon Lebensmittelchemie; Thieme, Stuttgart; Mai 2006
  6. ^ JECFA

External links

  • Codex General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA) Online Database; A list of permitted uses of pectin, further link to the JECFA (…) specification of pectin.
  • European parliament and council directive No 95/2/EC of 20 February 1995 on food additives other than colours and sweeteners; EU-Directive that lists the foods, pectin may be used in. Note: The link points to a “consleg”-version of the directive, that may not include the very latest changes. The Directive will be replaced by a new Regulation for food additives in the next few years.

See also

  • Gelling agents
  • Jam

  Results from FactBites:
Pectin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (301 words)
Pectin is a heterosaccharide derived from the cell wall of plants.
The gelling characteristics of different pectins are influenced greatly by the degree of esterification of the molecule.
Pectin is used as an oral demulcent to alleviate symptoms of sore throat and mouth in some throat lozenges.
Pectin - definition of Pectin in Encyclopedia (168 words)
Pectin is a heterosaccharide in the cell wall of plants.
Pectins are very variable in composition; chain lengths are variable and there is a very large variation in the combination and order of each of the monosaccharide derivative units.
Pectin is commonly used as the active ingredient in cough drops because it coats the upper trachea and prevents the spasms which precede coughing.
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