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Am J Clin Nutr. 1978 Oct;31(10 Suppl):S94-S98.

Mineral components of plant cell walls.


Plant cell walls that are secondarily thickened contain silicon and metal cations. The silicon occurs predominantly as silica (SiO2.nH2O) deposited in intimate association with the organic components of the walls and, according to recent evidence, as an integral constituent of polyuronides. Relatively large amounts of deposited (i.e., solid) silica are found in rice and other cereals and in grasses. When ingested by ruminant animals, practically all the solid silica may be recovered in the feces. However, microscopic particles of silica from plants are, to a small extent, absorbed as such through the gastrointestinal wall in both man and ruminant animals. It has now been shown that silicon is essential for animals, and that it is a constituent of certain mucopolysaccharides, thereby contribution to the architecture of connective tissues. The acidic silanol group of solid silica in plant cell walls may be involved in binding metal cations, but carboxyl and phenolic hydroxyl groups of the organic components of the walls are probably mainly responsible. Binding of metal cations by these components of plant cell walls, and possibly by silica, is likely to reduce availability of the cations for intestinal absorption.

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