FACT: Eating Green Vegetables Boosts Your Immune Defenses.
Nutrition researchers have found another good reason to eat green vegetables (from bok choy to broccoli, kale, spinach, etc.); they are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. The vegetables ensure that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly.
“It is still surprising ” said researchers from The Babraham Institute in Cambridge. “we expected cells at the surface would play some role in the interaction with the outside world, but such a clear cut interaction with the diet was unexpected. After feeding otherwise healthy lab subjects a vegetable-poor diet for two to three weeks, we were amazed to see 70 to 80 percent of these protective cells disappeared.”
Those protective IELs exist as a network beneath the barrier of epithelial cells covering inner and outer body surfaces, where they are important as a first line of defense and in wound repair. The research team now finds that the numbers of IELs depend on levels of a cell-surface protein called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which can be regulated by dietary ingredients found primarily in cruciferous vegetables.
Subjects lacking this receptor lose control over the microbes living on the intestinal surface, both in terms of their numbers and composition.
Earlier studies suggested that breakdown of cruciferous vegetables can yield a compound that can be converted into a molecule that triggers AhRs. The new study finds that subjects fed a synthetic diet lacking this key compound experience a significant reduction in AhR activity and lose IELs. With reduced numbers of these key immune cells, they showed lower levels of antimicrobial proteins, heightened immune activation and greater susceptibility to injury. When the researchers intentionally damaged the intestinal surface in subjects that didn’t have normal AhR activity, the subjects were not as quick to repair that damage.
The immunologists involved in the research hope the findings will generate more interest in the medical community, noting that some of the basic characteristics observed in the subjects are consistent with those seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
They conclude “it’s already a good idea to eat your greens.” Still, the results offer a molecular basis for the importance of cruciferous vegetable-derived phyto-nutrients as part of a healthy diet.
Story Source: Cell Press
Journal Reference: Exogenous Stimuli Maintain Intraepithelial Lymphocytes via Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor
Activation. Cell, 13 October 2011 Cell Press (2011, October 13). “Eating green veggies improves immune defenses”
This article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact your doctor or healthcare professional for medical and nutritional consultation.
- For the Love of Leafy Greens (lewrockwell.com)
- Cancer… Cruciferous Plus is your first line of defence (bonitaclark.wordpress.com)
- Stay in Balance to Boost Your Immune System (joyofspa.com)
- More on Choosing a Stress Free Diet (therapytime.wordpress.com)
- Choices Count for Health (wholefoodsmarket.com)