We investigated the effect of low molecular weight barley β-glucan (LMW-BG) on cecal fermentation, glucose, and lipid metabolism through comparisons to high molecular weight β-glucan (HMW-BG). C57BL/6J male mice were fed a moderate-fat diet for 61 days. LMW-BG or HMW-BG was added to the diet corresponding to 4% β-glucan. We measured the apparent absorption of fat, serum biomarkers, the expression levels of genes involved in glucose and lipid metabolism in the liver and ileum, and bacterial counts of the major microbiota groups using real time PCR. The concentration of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the cecum was analyzed by GC/MS. Significant reductions in serum leptin, total- and LDL-cholesterol concentrations, and mRNA expression levels of sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1c (SREBP-1c) were observed in both BG groups. HMW-BG specific effects were observed in inhibiting fat absorption and reducing abdominal deposit fat, whereas LMW-BG specific effects were observed in increasing bacterial counts of Bifidobacterium
and cecal total SCFAs, acetate, and propionate. mRNA expression of neurogenin 3 was increased in the LMW-BG group. We report that LMW-BG affects glucose and lipid metabolism via a prebiotic effect, whereas the high viscosity of HMW-BG in the digestive tract is responsible for its specific effects.
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