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Modelling the breakdown mechanics of solid foods during gastric digestion

Drechsler, Krista C., Ferrua, Maria J.
Food research international 2016 v.88 pp. 181-190
bioavailability, digestion, foods, gastric juice, ingestion, mechanics, models, nutrients, particle size distribution, potatoes, stomach
Solid food disintegration within the stomach has a major role on the rate and final bioavailability of nutrients within the body. Understanding the link between food material properties and their behaviour during gastric digestion is key to the design of novel structures with enhanced functionalities. However, despite extensive research, the establishment of proper relationships has proved difficult. This work builds on the hypothesis that to bridge this knowledge gap a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of food disintegration during digestion is needed. The purpose of this study is to propose a new protocol that, by uncoupling the physicochemical processes occurring during gastric digestion, allows for a more rigorous understanding of these mechanisms. Using steamed potatoes as a product model, this study aims to develop a viable methodology to characterize the role of gastric juice and compressive forces on the breakdown mechanics of solid foods during digestion. From a general viewpoint, this work not only reveals the importance of the parameter used to describe the size distribution of food particles on the interpretation of their breakdown behaviour, but also provides a new framework to characterize the mechanisms involved. Results also illustrate that food breakdown during gastric digestion might well not follow a unimodal behaviour, highlighting the need to characterize their performance based on parameters describing broad aspects of their particle size distribution rather than single point values. Arguably simplistic on its approach, this study illustrates how an improved understanding of the role of chemical and physical processes on the breakdown mechanics of solid foods can facilitate valid inferences with respect to their in-vivo performance during digestion. In particular, it shows that while the contraction forces occurring in the stomach can easily disintegrate the potato matrix at the molecular level, the continuous exposure to gastric juices will promote their disintegration into progressively smaller debris. A discussion on the challenges and future directions for the implementation of a more general and standardized protocol is provided. Not intended to reproduce the breakdown behaviour of foods during gastric digestion, but rather to characterize the mechanisms involved, the proposed protocol would open new opportunities to identify the material properties governing the performance of different foods upon ingestion.