Green vegetables directly influence immune defences and help maintain intestinal health

The discovery will also enable scientists to ask fundamental questions about the frequent interactions of cells of the immune system with external environmental factors. This work may provide a rationale for the reported association between some intestinal and skin disorders, the most frequent of which is psoriasis, as well as diet choices.

Read the research background and view the movie here :

Scientists confirm ‘greens’ are good for you

Not that we really need science to tell us that greens and vegetables are good for us but its nice to know that the age old advise to ‘eat your greens’ still holds up. Leafy greens, widely recognized as healthy because they contain essential ingredients for ensuring optimum health and wellbeing. The latest research has now thrown light on the influence these foods have on our intestinal health. It appears that greens delivering a protective factor to certain cells of the immune system. These findings, reported online in the journal Cell, have implications for better understanding the basis of intestinal inflammatory disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and may even offer new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

Scientists at the UK’s Babraham Institute and the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research have been working on chemical components of greens found in the cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. Their research has focused on how these compounds regulate the survival of a special type of white blood cell (known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes or IEL’s for short), part of the body’s front line defence against infections and important in wound repair.

The IEL’s live just under the cells that line digestive tract and play a crucial role in protecting us from disease causing microbes that naturally inhabit the intestine. The research demonstrated that mice fed a diet low in vegetables quickly loose the IEL cells within the intestine. However, a low vegetable diet did not appear to affect other immune cells elsewhere in the body. Despite the low vegetable still delivering all other essential vitamins and minerals around 70-80% of the protective IEL’s simply disappeared within 2-3 weeks!

A key discovery that helped to unlock the mystery centered around the discovery of a special receptor on the surface of the IEL cells known as AhR (short for arly hydrocarbon receptor). A receptor is a special structure on a cell that acts rather like a combination lock. It needs the correct sequence of events to function or influence the function of the cell its found on. In the case of the IEL’s the receptor is activated by compounds found in vegetables. One such compound is called indole-3-carbinol (or I3C for short) and is found in cabbage, broccoli and mustard. Mice fed a low vegetable diet demonstrated low AhR activity while those on a low vegetable diet but supplemented with I3C maintained normal AhR activity and normal healthy IEL function. Interestingly, population studies have linked a diet low in fruit and vegetables with an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease with results of the present study providing a molecular basis for the importance of cruciferous vegetable-derived phyto-nutrients as part of a healthy diet.

In addition to the influence of IEL cells and intestinal health the scientists also found that IELs present in the mouse skin crucially depend on the activation of AhR. While the nature of the interactions preserving skin IELs is currently unknown, it may provide a rationale for the reported association between some intestinal and skin disorders, the most frequent of which is psoriasis, as well as diet choices. The bottom like here would appear to be “eat your greens” and possibly to look at supplements that contain a booster of nutrients found in greens such as Garden Veggies made by Nature’s Way. Even though a serving of vegetables should never be replaced by a supplement, using Garden Veggies in addition to your daily diet may help ensure optimal levels of the important health promoting vegetable derived compounds.


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