The major source of dietary fibre is plant cell walls, which are not digested in the stomach and small intestine and are available for fermentation in the large intestine. Plant cell walls are complex, usually made up of pectins and hemicelluloses within a cellulose network. The fermentation of plant cell walls by gut microbiota is also complex, so initially we studied changes in structure and concentration of individual plant cell wall polysaccharides during in vitro large intestinal fermentation. Subsequently, a range of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy techniques were used to examine plant cell walls and whole plant foods before and after digestion and fermentation. Not all dietary fibres are equal and by understanding the mechanisms by which DF is fermented, it will be possible to generate more detailed nutritional guidelines for consumption of foods containing dietary fibre as part of a healthy diet.

Jack Christopher headshotDr Bernadine Flanagan

Bernadine Flanagan is a chemist in the Centre for Nutrition and Food Science. Since joining Professor Mike Gidley’s research group in 2004, she has worked extensively with NMR spectroscopy and other analytical chemistry techniques to characterise the structure and functional properties of a range of plant foods, food ingredients and model systems. She is particularly interested in how food structures change during digestion and fermentation and what implications this has for human health. She has a Bachelor of Science (Honours), a PhD in inorganic chemistry and is the co-author of 66 international peer reviewed journal articles with over 3000 citations.

Dr Bernadine Flanagan, Research Fellow, Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation E: b.flanagan@uq.edu.au

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About Science Seminars

Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation hosts science seminars across the disciplines of animal, horticulture, crop, food and nutritional sciences.

With a range of speakers from Australia and abroad, the series explores how high-impact science will significantly improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the tropical and sub-tropical food, fibre and agribusiness sectors.

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The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation is a research institute at The University of Queensland supported by the Queensland Government via the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.


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