Thanks to recent advances in scientific knowledge on the raw fibre components of food, diseases like obesity, diabetes, constipation or diarrhoea can be prevented or cured more effectively by adding these components in the right quality and amount to an animal’s diet.
Cellulose is a very large molecule consisting of thousands of glucose units linked together by stronger chemical bonds than those found in starch. But cellulose represents only part of the total fibre in food. The term includes other soluble or insoluble fibrous plant substances, such as hemicelluloses, pectin, lignin and oligosaccharide fibres. On its own, cellulose does not have much of a nutritional effect, despite the raw cellulose content being stated on labels.
The role of fibres in the body is dependent on their nature. Indigestible and insoluble fibres (pure cellulose, lignin) act as ballast in the bowels, inducing contractions to help them function mechanically by stimulating contraction (peristalsis). Soluble fibres can be important for the health and hygiene of the digestive tract (FOS, MOS). The intake of sufficient fibre is important to produce a feeling of satiety in animals at risk of becoming overweight and in sedentary cats predisposed to the formation of hairballs in the digestive tract.
Fibres are one of the main constituents of plants, a kind of external skeleton providing support and lending them their shape. This explains why the generic term “cellulose” includes in fact a huge variety of molecules artificially grouped together; you only need to compare a tree trunk to a carrot or a French bean!