Pectins are indigestible dietary fibers and are widely used by the food industry for their gelling ability and they also play a significant role in maintaining health. Pectins can be fermented by the large intestinal microbiota resulting in the production of beneficial fermentation metabolites. Pectins are also now known to have beneficial health effects through interaction with immune receptors found in the small intestine. The functionalities of pectins are dependent on their complex chemical structure which may differ in sugar composition, level- and distribution of methyl-esters, and 3D conformation.
This multidisciplinary project, “Carbs can make the difference: how pectins fuel immunity”, was aimed to reveal the highly complex host-fiber relationships throughout the intestinal tract. The research has focused on the full characterization of bioactive pectins by enzymatic fingerprinting techniques and investigating their intermediate degradation products upon fermentation. Moreover, the immunomodulatory properties of pectins were investigated and correlated to their physico-chemical characteristics.