What Is the Function of Cellulose?

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You've no doubt heard of cellulose, and you may even know it has something to do with plants, especially the green ones. But you may not know the significant function this organic compound fulfills on a very rudimentary basis every day of your life. It really is the foundation of almost everything, if you really look at it.

Identification

Basically, cellulose is a common carbohydrate found in plants which allows the plant to stand upright by forming the basic structure of its cell wall through the process of photosynthesis. It is made up of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon as well as a derivation of glucose and creates a sort of macrobiotic compound that allows most living organisms to function, meaning it serves as food on some level. Most often, a substance containing cellulose is referred to as dietary fiber.

Function

Due to the very nature of this carbohydrate, and the fact that it is the primary foundation of a plant, cellulose is probably one of the most significant compounds in existences, as it is the very base of the food chain. A plant is eaten by an herbivore, an herbivore is eaten by a carnivore, a carnivore is eaten by a larger carnivore and so on up the food chain. While we as human beings may be more of an omnivore, we still eat meat, and this meat has most likely eaten either a plant or something that's eaten something that's eaten a plant.

Effects

Besides giving us energy to move, think and even breathe, cellulose also acts as a sort of cleaning medium for the body. Since most animals, including humans, have a difficult time actually digesting cellulose, or at least those substances containing this organic compound, the body basically passes it whole, to a certain degree. As it moves through our bodies, it clears our digestive system and aids in its performance.

Types

Cellulose can usually be found in fruits and vegetables as well as those products made with fruits and vegetables. This would include apples, oranges, cabbage, spinach, peas, cereal, whole-grain breads, nuts, legumes and anything made with bran (which shouldn't come as a surprise). One of the easiest ways to recognize a food item that contains cellulose is that it is typically categorized as a complex carbohydrate.

Considerations

While most of us think of cellulose as a compound found in the food we eat, it is also used for a variety of other purposes, such as in papers and textiles as well as many pharmaceuticals and medications. It is also the very base substance of many of clothes we wear, as 91 percent of cotton's structure is made up of cellulose.

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