REVIEW: Variability in Fine Structures of Noncellulosic Cell Wall Polysaccharides from Cereal Grains: Potential Importance in Human Health and Nutrition Academic Article uri icon


  • Noncellulosic polysaccharides from the cell walls of cereal grains are not digested by human small intestinal enzymes and so contribute to total dietary fiber intake. These polysaccharides are becoming recognized increasingly for their potential to lower the risk of serious diet-related conditions such as type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, and diverticular disease. The effectiveness of noncellulosic cell wall polysaccharides in improving health outcomes is related to the fine structure and associated physicochemical properties. The two most nutritionally relevant wall polysaccharides of cereal grains are the arabinoxylans and the (1-3,1-4)-β-d-glucans. These polysaccharides have high molecular mass values but are nevertheless soluble in aqueous media, at least in part, where they adopt highly asymmetrical conformations and consequently form high viscosity solutions. Thus, arabinoxylans and (1-3,1-4)-β-d-glucans contribute to the soluble fiber component of human diets. The molecular size, solubility, and viscosity of the polysaccharides vary widely not only between different cereals but also within a single species. The variability in these properties reflects differences in the chemical structure of the polysaccharides, which in turn influences the beneficial effects of arabinoxylans and (1-3,1-4)-β-d-glucans in human diets. Here, we summarize information on the variability of fine structures of the arabinoxylans and (1-3,1-4)-β-d-glucans in common cereals and relate these to solubility, viscosity, and health benefits. The recent identification of genes involved in the biosynthesis of the (1-3,1-4)-β-d-glucans opens the way for the genetic improvement of cereal quality parameters that are important in human health.


  • Collins, Helen M
  • Burton, Rachel A
  • Topping, David L
  • Liao, Ming‐Long
  • Bacic, Antony
  • Fincher, Geoffrey B

publication date

  • July 2010