The main use for pectin (vegetable agglutinate) 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. Pectin also reduces syneresis in jams and marmalades and increases the gel strength of low calorie jams. For household use, pectin is an ingredient in gelling sugar (also known as "jam sugar") 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 is used in confectionery jellies to give a good gel structure, a clean bite and to confer a good flavour release. Pectin can also be used to stabilize acidic protein drinks, such as drinking yogurt, to improve the mouth-feel and the pulp stability in juice based drinks and as a fat substitute in baked goods. Typical levels of pectin used as a food additive are between 0.5 and 1.0% this is about the same amount of pectin as in fresh fruit.
In medicine, pectin increases viscosity and volume of stool so that it is used against constipation and diarrhea. Until 2002, it was one of the main ingredients used in Kaopectate a medication to combat diarrhea, along with kaolinite. It has been used in gentle heavy metal removal from biological systems. Pectin is also used in throat lozenges as a demulcent.
In cosmetic products, pectin acts as stabilizer. Pectin is also used in wound healing preparations and specialty medical adhesives, such as colostomy devices.
Sriamornsak revealed that pectin could be used in various oral drug delivery platforms, e.g., controlled release systems, gastro-retentive systems, colon-specific delivery systems and mucoadhesive delivery systems, according to its intoxicity and low cost. It was found that pectin from different sources provides different gelling abilities, due to variations in molecular size and chemical composition. Like other natural polymers, a major problem with pectin is inconsistency in reproducibility between samples, which may result in poor reproducibility in drug delivery characteristics.
In ruminant nutrition, depending on the extent of lignification 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.