The ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls is uncovering the mechanisms by which plant cell walls may control the delivery of nutrients from plant-based foods into the human body.
Although the benefits of a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables (i.e. plant cell walls) is well known, the mechanisms underlying this benefit are not fully understood. Work within the ARC Centre has shown that many of the important nutrients characteristic of plants can bind to cell walls during food processing and potentially during digestion. Binding has been shown to occur to the cellulose and pectin components of walls and is sufficiently strong that it is not reversed during digestion in the stomach and small intestine.
These results suggest that many of the nutrients in plants may survive undigested until the large intestine where they could be fermented by our gut microbiota. The consequence of this effective delivery of plant nutrients to the large intestine by plant cell walls is not yet known and is under active investigation by Centre staff and students.