Modified citrus pectin can minimize heavy metal toxicity, reveals study

People love the citrus fruit for its amazing health benefits. Not only is it a good source of fiber and vitamin C, it is also rich in phytochemicals that help get rid of free radicals and treat certain ailments.

But here’s another thing you might not know about this nutritious fruit: it can reduce heavy metal toxicity.

What is heavy metal toxicity?

Heavy metal toxicity is an issue that is seldom discussed even though it is a serious problem. Heavy metals which are likely to cause toxicity in humans are arsenic, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, mercury and zinc. Mercury and lead, in particular, have particularly nasty side effects. Lead can cause brain damage, anemia, seizures, coma, and even death in children. In the U.S., one of the most common sources of lead poisoning is drinking contaminated water from tainted pipes. Paints used in residential houses, as well as contaminated dust and soil, also contribute to cases of toxicity which affect both children and adults.

Mercury, on the other hand, is more often found in food. Shellfish and fish like sharks, pikes, halibuts, tuna, trouts and salmon are the usual culprits of mercury poisoning. Aside from food, mercury can also be found in dental amalgam fillings, in factories or sites like coal plants, in some types of jewelry, old paints, and even vaccines. In 1999, the FDA asked for the removal of a compound called thimerosal from vaccines to limit mercury exposure. Thimerosal contains mercury and is used as a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi in multi-dose flu vaccines. Exposure to too much mercury can cause brain damage, impaired motor skills, infertility, and heart disease.

Modified citrus pectin helps eliminate heavy metals from the body

Pectin is a polysaccharide that can be found in the pulp and skin of citrus fruits. Commercially, it is used as a thickening agent, a gelling agent, and as a stabilizer in food. Natural pectin is said to be a good detoxifying agent; however, it is not readily absorbed by the body so it has to be structurally modified to enhance its bioavailability. The product of this change is modified citrus pectin or MCP, which is now being marketed in supplement form. MCP is known to lower blood cholesterol levels and is used as an adjunct to conventional cancer treatments due to its ability to suppress cancer cell growth and metastasis.

Besides helping with diseases, MCP also acts as a powerful chelating agent, that is, a substance that binds to metals. MCP can attach to toxic metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, aluminum, and arsenic, causing them to be flushed away in urine. One study back in 2008 demonstrated how MCP was able to decrease lead in the blood of hospitalized children. After two weeks of taking MCP, the concentration of lead in their blood samples decreased dramatically, while the concentration of lead in their urine increased, suggesting that lead was being eliminated through urination. MCP also was well-tolerated by the children, and there were no reports of adverse effects associated with it.

A similar study in Phytotherapy Research also reported the effect of MCP in people who have acceptable levels of heavy metals in their body. After six days of taking MCP, their urine samples contained significant amounts of arsenic, cadmium, and lead, demonstrating the ability of MCP to help the body get rid of harmful heavy metals. According to the researchers, MCP’s ability to chelate toxic metals can be attributed to rhamnogalacturonan II, the complex carbohydrate or pectin that it contains.

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