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IB HL Biology

Christopher Wong

Digestion Extension Questions Hormones, Absorption and

1. Discuss the control of digestive juice secretion by nerves and hormones using the
example of the secretion of gastric juice.
Hormones and nerves control the secretion of digestive juices. The nervous system is invoked
by our five senses. The sight and smell of food triggers the release of gastric juices. Hormones
are also released when food arrives in the stomach. A hormone called gastrin travels through
the bloodstream and causes cells to make more gastric juices.
2. Compare the composition of gastric juices, pancreatic juices and saliva.
Alpha-amylase (enzyme)
initiates the digestion of
Lingual lipase breaks
down triglycerides into
fatty acids
Slightly alkaline electrolyte
solution moistens food

Gastric Juices
Hydrochloric acid
Pepsin (endopeptidase)
Intrinsic factor (aids in
vitamin B12 absorption)

Pancreatic Juices
Contains many enzymes
carboxypeptidase, lipase,
High concentration of
bicarbonate ions aids in
neutralizing the acidic
gastric juice from the

3. Describe the methods utilized by the small intestine for the absorption and
assimilation of nutrients.
The small intestine uses many methods for the absorption and assimilation of nutrients.
Microvilli, found on the villi, greatly increases surface area allowing for a greater rate of
absorption. Villi contain a rich capillary network, which maintains a concentration gradient
allowing for rapid transport of diffused products. A single epithelial layer minimizes the diffusion
distance between the intestinal lumen and capillary network. Lacteals absorb lipids found in the
intestine and transports it into the lymphatic system for processing. Intestinal crypts found
between individual villi, release juices that serve as a carrier medium for nutrients. Many
permanent membrane proteins and mitochondria are found in the walls of the small intestine to
active transport nutrients into the cells.
What are we unable to absorb/digest and why?
Humans are unable to digest cellulose. They do not have the enzyme cellulase responsible for
the digestion of cellulose, a polysaccharide. Without chemically breaking down, cellulose is
known in food science as fibre. This fibre creates a bulk, which acts as a stimulus for peristalsis.
Other materials such as lignin, bile pigments, bacteria, and intestinal cells cannot be absorbed
by the intestines and exits the body as feces.