What Is Cellulose?

(BeWellBuzz) Do you ever wonder if what you are eating is really good for you? Whether you are eating the right nutrients or not? If you do not already know – there are essentially seven different food groups (namely Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals, Water and Roughage) that must be included in a person’s diet in order to maintain healthy and balanced eating habit.

While we consume most of them in some or the other way, special attention needs to be taken for consuming good amount of roughage. Roughage, a.k.a. dietary fibers, consists of:

  • A soluble portion: The soluble portion of the fiber is fermented into gases and other by-products in the colon.
  • An insoluble portion: This portion remains undigested. It absorbs water and is ultimately excreted.

Why Does Our Body Need Dietary Fiber?

The primary function of fiber is to add bulkiness to the human feces.  Since dietary fiber absorbs water as it goes down the alimentary canal, commonly known as the digestive tract, it softens the stool and reduces its time in the tract.

What Can Excess Dietary Fiber Do?

Too much of fiber in the body can produce too much of gas causing the stomach to bloat. Besides, since it absorbs all the water in its path, it can cause constipation due to insufficient fluid. You might find it contrary to the purpose of consuming dietary fiber, but this is true, and you should consume moderate amounts of dietary fiber.

What Is Cellulose?

Cellulose is a polymer of β-Glucose units. There are two types of glucose units namely α-Glucose units and β-Glucose units. Cellulose is not a long chain of the individual glucose units, but it forms cross links so as to create a fiber like structure.

Where Is Cellulose Found?

Cellulose is not a rare substance to find. In fact, it is quite the contrary as it is the most abundant organic compound on the Earth. The cell wall of plants is composed of cellulose. In fact, it is a major building material for plants.

  • Cellulose is degraded or broken down into its constituent glucose units, by a biochemical reaction involving enzyme biocatalyst called ‘Cellulase’.
  • Cellulase is not produced in most organisms including humans. However, cellulose is a chief portion of the diet of herbivorous animals like cattle.
  • Cellulase is mainly found in certain species of fungi, bacteria and protozoa that grow in the digestive systems of these herbivores. Therefore, these animals and the microorganisms live in a symbiotic relationship with each other. The cattle provide the microorganisms with nutrition and a suitable living environment while the microorganisms degrade cellulose in the rumen of these herbivores.

How Does Cellulose Work As A Dietary Fiber?

  • The soluble part of dietary fiber consists of substances that can be digested and fermented. This fermentation process is undertaken by the micro flora or bacteria that reside in the colon. Compounds such as starch, sugars, and alcoholic sugars are the soluble part. These are broken down into simpler compounds like acetate, butyrate and the like, to release energy and some gases. Most of the gases released are utilized by the bacteria for their growth and proliferation whereas gases like hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4) are released out of the system. Interestingly enough, these gases expelled from our system are flammable!
  • The insoluble part of the fiber cannot be metabolized as humans cannot produce the enzymes required for their degradation. Moreover, the bacteria and fungi that possess this property are also not found to be a part of the flora in the digestive system. For this reason, the insoluble part only adds as bulk to the feces as it is released from the system. The main advantage of this is that, it can cleanse the digestive tract of any undigested nutrition found in the canal. Besides this, in the presence of water, dietary fiber tends to increase in volume and dissolve dilute enzymes and other absorbable compounds particularly sugars. For this reason, fiber slows down the uptake of glucose and hydrolysis (break down) of starch. This is a great advantage since it reduces the presence of excess glucose or lipids immediately following a meal. This process is suitably known as ‘gastric emptying’.

Foods with High Content of Cellulose

Cellulose and other dietary fibers (like hemicelluloses, pectin and beta-glucans) are commonly found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Some examples are spinach, zucchini, oatmeal, pear fruits, tomato skins, wheat flour and bran.

Consume Cellulose As A Dietary Fiber!

Cellulose is a great dietary fiber. The soluble portion of cellulose helps to slow down the food through the intestine while the insoluble part makes the feces soft and prevents constipation. It is useful in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and prevents cancers like colon cancer. Moreover, dietary fiber helps to manage and prevent hemorrhoids. Cellulose helps in faster digestion and hence induces weight loss. It is also known to limit cholesterol absorption by the body. So, consider adding cellulose to your daily diet.







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