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J Am Coll Nutr. 2006 Aug;25(4):307-12.

Enhancement of absorption by gum arabic in a model of gastrointestinal dysfunction.

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  • 1Division of Neonatal/Perinatal Medicine, Schneider Children's Hospital at North Shore, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Manhasset, NY 11030, USA.



Diarrhea is a common and deadly threat to millions of infants and children. Similarly, malabsorption can aggravate the health status of the chronically sick and especially the elderly. Prompt recovery from intestinal dysfunction may have a substantial impact on many populations. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that, in an animal model of cathartic-induce diarrhea, the previously shown proabsorptive effects of gum arabic (GA) could directly reduce and ameliorate intestinal dysfunction.


Young male rats were offered a standard solid feed and as a sole source of fluid a phenolphthalein-magnesium citrate solution for 3 or 6 days (PC), or the same plus either 10 (GA1) or 20 (GA2) g/L of GA. Other groups had tap water without (CTL) or with 20 g/L GA (CTL + GA), after which the animals were jejunally perfused under anesthesia to test their absorptive capacity. Similarly treated rats were killed and the small intestinal mucosa scraped and processed for nitric oxide synthase (NOS) determination.


In 6-day studies addition of GA to the cathartic solution led to increases in net water, sodium and glucose absorption with the higher GA2, relatively to the PC rats. For water (means +/- SEM): PC = 42.4 +/- 3.6; GA2 = 57.9 +/- 3.9 nmol/g.min, p < 0.05. For sodium: PC = 2,139 +/- 334; GA2 = 4,465 +/- 444 nmol/g.min, p < 0.05. After only 3-day exposure, effects were less marked. Total NOS activity was increased in the PC, GA1 and GA2 groups (333 +/- 26; 334 +/- 27; 336 +/- 23 nmol/h.g) compared to CTL (233 +/- 27 nmol/h.g, p < 0.05), while CTL + GA showed a further reduction of activity (190 +/- 18 nmol/h.g, p < 0.05 vs. CTL).


These findings substantiate earlier physiologic and biochemical effects of GA on the gastrointestinal tract, presently conducted in a model of gastrointestinal dysfunction. The data further suggest that a natural proteoglycan such as GA can reduce secretory effects induced by cathartics and, hence, are predictive of potential effectiveness in the context of diarrhea or malabsorption by infectious or functional causes.

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