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Cellulose Breakdown Dietary Supplement

Another way to help fight the hunger problem?
 
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Now, I may be completely wrong about this, so feel free to [mfd] this if it's just completely asanine.

Cellulose is a sugar found in plants. While a small variety of animals, such as ruminants (cows, deer, gazelles) can digest cellulose, many others, such as humans, cannot. Ruminants can break down cellulose because of the bacteria in their digestive tracts that have the enzymes to break down cellulose into glucose.

Over the years, we've created supplements to ingest, alongside or before consuming food products that don't necesarily agree with one's system, such as those currently on the market for lactose-intolerant persons. Couldn't the same thing be done for cellulose? Sold in tablet, or liquid form, the consumer ingests a product containing these enzymes.

Now, it is true that cellulose has its purpose in the human diet -- it's the fiber that you consume, or should consume, to keep your gut running like a well-oiled machine. But I envision this sort of supplement could be used, at least on a part-time basis, to get added nutrition from the food one consumes, or to make available carbohydrates from plants that wouldn't otherwise be digestible.

cswiii, Jan 19 2003

"Digestion in the Dairy Cow" http://babcock.cals...rition_eng_ch1.html
A good overview of ruminant digestion in general. [egnor, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

[link]






       It's an interesting thought, but the difference between ruminant digestion and our digestion is much more than the presence of a couple of enzymes. There's a reason they have several stomachs and chew their cud and keep stuff in there for 24-48 hours and so on; cellulose breakdown requires a complex microbial soup and a lot of time. Unless you can come up with an enzyme that's a lot more efficient than what the bacteria in a ruminant's gut naturally use, I don't see how this would work without massive modification to our digestive tract.   

       Fiber is tough stuff.
egnor, Jan 19 2003
  

       You might try emulating a ruminant's belly with fermentation vats and things. I can't think of any existing foods that are produced from cellulose, though, which may not be a good sign.   

       You might be able to improve energy capture (over just milking and eating the cow, which is distasteful to many anyway) by feeding the cellulose to simpler creatures. Termites, for example (who also eat things that even ruminants can't).
Monkfish, Jan 19 2003
  

       you don't see rabbits with cellulite, do you?
po, Jan 19 2003
  
      
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