A disbalance in microbiota communities in the intestine is implicated in a large number of Western diseases. This correlates with a low intake of dietary fiber in Western diets. Pectin is a dietary fiber that might be essential for the prevention of Western diseases. Recently, evidence has been found that the beneficial effects of pectin are highly dependent on its chemical structure and the effects go beyond prebiotic effects. Earlier research has demonstrated that low methyl-esterified pectins have direct, microbiota-independent effects due to their direct interaction with TLRs in the small intestine. High methyl-esterified pectins mainly impact the microbiota in the colon to enhance the formation of pectic oligosaccharides and SCFA.
The aim of our research is to fully characterize bioactive pectins and their intermediate degradation products upon fermentation by enzymatic fingerprinting techniques.
Pectin molecules from various sources will be applied and transformed into molecules with a combined beneficial effect. The already available data on pectin health effects will serve to produce pectins with a desired molecular weight, and methyl-esterification patterns, which will be tested in mice. Results obtained will be used to tailor pectin structure further to yield optimal bioactivity.
This study will contribute to the understanding of the structure-function relationship of oligosaccharides and ultimately lead to a tailored design of non-digestible carbohydrates with desired health effects.