Washington DC: Turns out, eating moss can have various health benefits - including gut cleansing.
According to a research conducted by the University of Adelaide, a new complex carbohydrate found in moss could possibly be exploited for health or other uses.
The team of scientists said that the polysaccharide looks a bit like the gut-friendly, health-promoting beta-glucan found in oats and other cereals. A polysaccharide is a complex carbohydrate made up of sugar molecules.
Led by Rachel Burton, the research team was looking into the evolutionary history of the beta-glucan when they made this discovery.
Beta glucan, another polysaccharide, is a dietary fibre that is known to have many health benefits. It is abundant in cereals such as oats and barley but has not been found in moss despite the plants having similar relevant genes.
The researchers took one of these similar genes from moss to see if it would lead to the production of beta glucan.
"What we found was a new polysaccharide made up of the sugars glucose and arabinose - not just glucose as in beta-glucan," said Burton.
"We have called it arabinoglucan and believe the way the two different sugars link together will make it structurally similar to beta-glucan. We are not advocating eating moss, we are simply saying that there is great potential for this new polysaccharide as we've seen with others."
Burton said that while the function of the arabinoglucan is not yet known, it may have properties that can be exploited for health, industrial and medical fields, like well-known polysaccharides, such as cellulose for paper and cotton, or xylans that can be used for as dietary supplements or drug delivery.
The study appears in the journal The Plant Cell.