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Bone. 2005 Nov;37(5):728-35. Epub 2005 Aug 29.

Mechanisms underlying the effects of inulin-type fructans on calcium absorption in the large intestine of rats.

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  • 1Institute of Nutritional Science, Molecular Nutrition Unit, Technical University of Munich, Am Forum 5, 85350 Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany.


Inulin-type fructans (inulin, oligofructose, fructooligosaccharides) in the diet do increase intestinal calcium absorption in animals and humans, but the underlying mechanism has not been identified. We therefore assessed the effects of fermentation of inulin-type fructans on transepithelial calcium transport in rat large intestine. Transepithelial calcium fluxes in vitro (Ussing chamber), effects on gene expression, mucosal morphology, and composition of luminal contents were determined in rats fed a standard diet and/or a diet containing 10% (w/w) 1/1 inulin-oligofructose mixture (INOF). Net transepithelial calcium transport in large intestine of rats fed a standard diet was increased by high mucosal calcium concentrations, the presence of 100 mmol/L mucosal short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), the presence of 10 g/L INOF at the mucosal side, but not by reducing mucosal pH. Tissues from rats fed INOF did not show altered calcium transport when compared to controls. However, when flux data were based on the total caecal surface area, INOF-fed rats nearly doubled absorption rate in caecum. INOF feeding altered transcript levels of several mucosal genes that can be linked to transcellular and paracellular calcium transport processes. In addition, a decreased luminal pH in caecum with markedly increased caecal pools of total, soluble, and ionized calcium resulted from INOF ingestion. Thus, inulin-type fructans increase the large intestinal calcium absorption by different mechanisms including enhanced pools of soluble and ionized calcium, an increase in the absorptive surface predominantly in caecum, the increased concentrations of SCFAs, and by direct interaction with the intestinal tissue.

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