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J Nutr Biochem. 1999 Jan;10(1):13-8.

In vitro digestibility and fermentability of levan and its hypocholesterolemic effects in rats.

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Department of Food and Nutrition, Faculty of Human Life Science, Osaka City University, Sumiyoshi, Japan.


This study describes the in vitro digestibility and fermentability of high molecular weight (ca. 2,000,000) levan and its effect on the metabolism of lipids in growing rats fed cholesterol-free diets. Levan was synthesized from sucrose using bacterial levansucrase immobilized on a honeycomb-shaped ceramic support. Although body weight gain, weight of visceral organs, morphologic changes in the digestive tract, and the serum triacylglycerol and glucose concentrations were not affected by feeding levan diets for 4 weeks, a significant hypocholesterolemic effect was observed. Serum cholesterol level was decreased to 83% or 59% by feeding a 1% or 5% levan diet, respectively. The hypocholesterolemic effect was accompanied by a significant increase in fecal excretion of sterols and lipids. High molecular weight levan, though not hydrolyzed by the salivary amylases, was hydrolyzed by artificial gastric juice and was changed to a low molecular weight (ca. 4,000) levan with a small amount of fructose, but did not produce any fructooligosaccharides. Low molecular weight (ca. 6,000) levan was not hydrolyzed by either pancreatic juice or small intestinal enzymes. This suggests that, in vivo, low molecular weight levan derived from the high molecular weight material is not further digested and reaches the colon intact. The fermentation of low molecular weight levan (ca. 6,000) by several strains of bifidobacteria was not observed. These results showed that the hypocholesterolemic effect of levan may result from the prevention of intestinal sterol absorption, and not from the action of the fermentation products of levan.


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