Digestion of isolated legume cells in a stomach-duodenum model: three mechanisms limit starch and protein hydrolysis

Rewati R. Bhattarai, Sushil Dhital, Peng Wu, Xiao Dong Chen, Michael J. Gidley

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68 Citations (Scopus)


Retention of intact plant cells to the end of the small intestine leads to transport of entrapped macronutrients such as starch and protein for colonic microbial fermentation, and is a promising mechanism to increase the content of resistant starch in diets. However, the effect of gastro-intestinal bio-mechanical processing on the intactness of plant cells and the subsequent resistance to enzymatic digestion of intracellular starch and protein are not well understood. In this study, intact cells isolated from legume cotyledons are digested in a laboratory model which mimics the mechanical and biochemical conditions of the rat stomach and duodenum. The resulting digesta are characterised in terms of cell (wall) integrity as well as intracellular starch and protein hydrolysis. The cells remained essentially intact in the model with negligible (ca. 2-3%) starch or protein digestion; however when the cells were mechanically broken and digested in the model, the hydrolysis was increased to 45-50% suggesting that intact cellular structures could survive the mixing regimes in the model stomach and duodenum sufficiently to prevent digestive enzyme access. Apart from intact cell walls providing effective barrier properties, they also limit digestibility by restricting starch gelatinisation during cooking, and significant non-specific binding of α-amylase is observed to both intact and broken cell wall components, providing a third mechanism hindering starch hydrolysis. The study suggests that the preservation of intactness of plant cells, such as from legumes, could be a viable approach to achieve the targeted delivery of resistant starch to the colon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2573-2582
Number of pages10
JournalFood & Function
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes

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