Cellulose In Digestion

Cellulose is a complex organic compound and occurs abundantly in nature. It is a polymeric carbohydrate molecule consisting of a linear chain having thousands of glycosidic linkages. It consists of unbranched chains of glucose (linked D-Glucopyranose. They are straight chains linked by hydrogen bonds producing a substance that is inert and insoluble in water, in their pure form. Modified cellulose and pure cellulose are different in their chemical compositions. They are components of the plant cell wall and have no odour or taste. It is crystalline in nature and does not dissolve water and other solvents. Termites and herbivores animals, like humans, lack the enzyme too.

Termites have mastigophorans(microbe) in their gut which brings about digestion of cellulose. Herbivores animals, on the other hand, are ruminants. They have many stomachs to carry out digestion. The rumen is the first stomach where ingested food containing cellulose is stored temporarily and later regurgitated to chew their cud. They are able to digest cellulose because of the presence of bacteria and enzymes in the rumen where anaerobic bacterial digestion occurs. A by-product of this type of digestion releases methane which is foul-smelling and causes the destruction of the ozone layer of the Earth.

See also: Role Of Digestive Enzymes

Cellulose is a fibre which is not digestible by the human digestive system, it, however, helps in the smooth functioning of the intestinal tract. The presence of beta acetal linkages in cellulose makes it different from starch and is a deciding factor in its digestibility. Humans lack the enzyme required to breakdown the linkages. Furthermore, it forms a major part of the human diet from plant foods. Fruits and vegetables contain cellulose in small amounts which are easily digestible. Fibres contain cellulose which acts as roughage, adding bulk to consumed food and helps in the smooth passage of the food efficiently and at a much faster pace.

High fibre diet reduces the risk of cancer of the colon as fibre in the diet helps reduce the amount of time the excreta stays in the colon wall. Cellulose lacks in calories, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, fats and proteins but is beneficial. Since it is insoluble in water it binds with other components adding bulk helping to move through the intestines by aiding bowel movements. Consuming food that does not contain cellulose over a period of time results in the bowel becoming weak leading to constipation. These fibres aid in the growth of bacteria in the gut which feeds on sugars and fibres. They maintain the health of the gut and checks for bacteria causing illness. Fibres also prevent weight gain and aids in weight loss. Explore more on Cellulose, human digestion and other related topics by registering at BYJU’s.

Related Links: Human Digestive System

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