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What does High-fiber Foods Really do?

The mechanism of how high-fiber foods really work in the body has been identified by researchers from the Medical College of Georgia. Their study revealed that the fiber// physically tears epithelial cells thereby releasing the lubricating mucus.

Dr. Paul L. McNeil, cell biologist at the Medical College of Georgia and corresponding author on the study published online Aug. 21 and scheduled for the September print issue of PloS Biology says, ‘More mucus is good When you eat high-fiber foods, they bang up against the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, rupturing their outer covering. What we are saying is this banging and tearing increases the level of lubricating mucus. It's a good thing.’

Although the fact that consuming roughage increases mucus production was known earlier and the discovery of frequent cell injury and repair when we eat was found years ago by Dr. McNeil, the new research ties the two together.

Dr. McNeil says, ‘It's a bit of a paradox, but what we are saying is an injury at the cell level can promote health of the GI tract as a whole. Even though epithelial cells usually live less than a week, they are regularly bombarded, in most of us at least three times a day as food passes by. These cells are a biological boundary that separates the inside world, if you will, from this nasty outside world. On the cellular scale, roughage, such as grains and fibers that can't be completely digested, are a mechanical challenge for these cells.'

However according to Dr McNeil and his colleague Dr. Katsuya Miyake this is an adaptive response and most of these cells repair this damage rapidly while at the same time excrete even more mucus, which provides a bit of cell protection as it eases food down the GI tract.

In 2003, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. McNeil revealed proof of his hypothesis that cells with internal membranes use those membranes to repair potentially lethal outer-membr
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