AsianScientist (Aug. 22, 2018) – Scientists in Singapore and the US have discovered that nanoscale cellulose can reduce fat absorption in the gut. Their findings are published in ACS Nano.
Obesity is a major risk factor for a range of morbidities, including metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Diets high in fat content have been known to contribute to obesity, hence researchers are seeking safe and effective methods to limit the uptake of fats in the digestive track.
In the present study, a team of scientists led by Associate Professors Joachim Loo and Ng Kee Woei of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, in collaboration with researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, have invented nanocellulose fibers that were shown to limit fat absorption by up to half in laboratory and animal experiments.
The researchers used an in vitro cell culture method that simulated the gastrointestinal tract to demonstrate that nanocellulose fibers 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair could cut fat absorption by up to 48 percent. In animal experiments, rats fed with heavy cream containing nanocellulose absorbed 36 percent less fats than rats fed with heavy cream alone.
Typically, digestive enzymes in the gut will break down triglycerides into fatty acids, which are absorbed by the small intestines and converted to fat by the human body. However, when triglycerides are trapped in nanocellulose fibers—like how cotton balls absorb oil—enzymes involved in breaking down triglycerides for fat absorption are less effective, thus reducing the amount of fatty acids that can be absorbed by the body.
“We’ve known for a long time that fiber in the diet has positive health benefits, but what we have shown now is that in animal experiments, fibers at the nanoscale are much more effective at reducing fat absorption than in its bulk form,” said Ng.
Moving forward, the NTU and Harvard scientists will continue to probe the toxicological profile of nanocellulose in further animal trials to examine its safety for consumption in large amounts. The use of nanocellulose fibers as fat blockers has been granted a US provisional patent, jointly filed by NTU and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Source: Nanyang Technological University.
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