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Feeding a healthy gut


Dr André Brodkorb and Dr Linda Giblin, food scientists at Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, study food digestion and bioactives. Their research features on tonight's (Monday, 6 December) episode of “10 Things to Know About…Gut Health”, airing on RTÉ One Television at 8.30pm.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, a takeaway or a meal from scratch, the food we eat is a complex structure of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, as well as the other micronutrients including vitamins and minerals. In food and nutritional studies, the term “bioactive” refers to compounds in food which are not essential nutrients but may have other, separate health benefits.

Food digestion

Dr André Brodkorb’s group study food digestion and the relationship between a food’s structure and its function in the body. As a member of the worldwide INFOGEST network, André was a leader in the development of a standardised in vitro model of the digestive system.

10 Things to Know About

In this episode of 10 Things to Know About…, André demonstrates this lab model to presenter Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, and explains how it allows food scientists to study the digestion of various food types and analyse end-products such as amino acids, fatty acids and sugars, as well as important micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. André comments: “Lab-based digestion models help us to fully understand what is happening once we eat and digest food.  It allows us to identify bioactives that are released from food during digestion, while the standardised methods such as INFOGEST allow us to compare and share results with other research groups worldwide.”

Food bioactives

Dr Linda Giblin’s research group focus on food bioactives and their effects on the gut barrier, the lining of the digestive system. Using tissue cells cultured in the lab, they can mimic the cells of the gut barrier and measure their response to digested food. In particular, they investigate how protein components of digested food cross the gut barrier and the bioactive effects these proteins may have beyond growth and maintenance.

Linda explains: “Not all proteins we eat are the same. They differ in their amino acid composition, their digestion and the peptides they produce during gut transit. We ask the question whether bioactive proteins can provide health benefits to the gut barrier and downstream to muscle cells.”