Gut model - taking digestion out of the body

Predictive in vitro simulation of the digestive and release characterization of nutrients and actives from foods within the gastrointestinal (GI) environments has long been an area of high unmet need. The increased focus on food functionality, particularly with the inclusion of functional ingredients or recognised nutrients, vitamins, and minor plant components (phytochemicals) and the subsequent development of novel foods and nano-ingredients, manufacturers need to know how these new products and ingredients behave in the GI tract. An understanding of whether these foods are safe for consumers to eat, how they break down in the gut and whether they provide the designed functionality has demanded much more rigorous understanding of the digestion, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) fate of these compounds. There is now an overwhelming interest in the development of predictive models of human digestion, which could be used to accurately characterise the digestion, release and dissolution as a surrogate or prelude to human intervention studies.

Within the last two decades our understanding of the human gut has evolved with the development of non-invasive investigative techniques (such as MRI, gamma scinitigraphy etc) that allow real time measurement of the key conditions and processes that take place in the human stomach and small intestine. Such data has made it possible to undertake in vitro modelling that is predictive of in vivo performance within the human gastrointestinal tract allowing the process of digestion of real foods and meals to be followed in some detail.

Bioaccessibility and the delivery of functionality
With the advent of present-day analytical techniques, it is possible to describe the complex chemical nature of our foods with ever more accuracy and sensitivity. However, the type and quantity of the nutrient components of foods may have very little bearing on their potential contribution to our ‘health’ status. Only a portion of the nutrients present in food is released from the food material, absorbed into the body and utilised, and this portion can be highly variable depending upon the food structure and degree of processing. At Leatherhead Food Research, the ‘digestibility’ and ‘bioaccessibility’ of food components are being investigated using a cross-disciplinary approach utilising in vitro models of human digestion and in vivo intervention studies in human volunteers. This combination of predictive modelling of digestion and human feed studies is being used to study the digestion of real foods within the gut and health outcomes, and in particular the development and/or optimisation of functional foods and food ingredients.

This article appeared in the February 2011 edition of FoodCom

» Forward to colleague

» Print this page