In the small intestine the nature of the environment leads to a highly heterogeneous mucus layer primarily composed of the MUC2 mucin. We set out to investigate whether the soluble dietary fibre sodium alginate could alter the permeability of the mucus layer. The alginate was shown to freely diffuse into the mucus and to have minimal effect on the bulk rheology when added at concentrations below 0.1%. Despite this lack of interaction between the mucin and alginate, the addition of alginate had a marked effect on the diffusion of 500 nm probe particles, which decreased as a function of increasing alginate concentration. Finally, we passed a protein stabilised emulsion through a simulation of oral, gastric and small intestinal digestion. We subsequently showed that the addition of 0.1% alginate to porcine intestinal mucus decreased the diffusion of fluorescently labelled lipid present in the emulsion digesta. This reduction may be sufficient to reduce problems associated with high rates of lipid absorption such as hyperlipidaemia.
Mackie, A. R., Macierzanka, A., Aarak, K., Rigby, N. M., Parker, R., Channel, G. A., … Bajka, B. H. (2016). Sodium alginate decreases the permeability of intestinal mucus. Food Hydrocolloids, 52, 749–755. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodhyd.2015.08.004