The intake of diets rich in carbohydrates with a high-glycaemic load provides excessive energy consumption and low nutritional quality, contributing to cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes and obesity, among other pathologies. Natural options such as the use of low-methoxyl pectin to develop sugar free formulations is growing since they form gel without sucrose, providing stability and viscosity of numerous foodstuffs. In this paper, we have reviewed the consumer habits of sugar intake and the potential of pectin in the elaboration of low-glycaemic index foods, as well as the structure, applications and sources of pectin. Special attention has been paid on the structure-function relationship of low-methoxyl pectins considering their effects on type I and II diabetes. It has been shown that these pectins reduce the post-prandial glycaemic responses and have an important and recognised potential for the treatment and prevention of diabetes. Rheological behaviour of pectin, impact on intestinal microbiota and on different biomarkers have been postulated as the potential involved mechanisms. As future trends, it is necessary to consider new sources and structures of pectin that present improved functionalities. For this purpose, the obtainment of pectin and derivatives should be placed in a framework of sustainable food systems.
Keywords: Diabetes; Gastric emptying; Gel; Gut microbiota; In vivo; Low-methoxyl pectin.