I constantly need reminding of the health benefits of broccoli, because in terms of taste, broccoli has a very nasty bite (for me).
Fortunately, the scientific literature is peppered with broccoli endorsements. Researchers from The Babraham Institute in Cambridge, have just demonstrated that those little broccoli florets are actively involved in creating a guard of honour along the gut highway.
Gut defenders need pedestals to stand on
Intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) are a type of immune cell, which hovers just beneath the layer of cells which line both inner and outer body surfaces.
In this strategic position they help to keep things out and should the barrier be breached, patch things up.
IELs need help “standing” in position. A special protein platform known as the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), anchors them in place.
Broccoli lays the foundation for this guard of honour
Something in the broccoli family of vegetables, is responsible for laying down these aryl hydrocarbon receptor bases.
When cruciferous vegetables are absent from the diet of mice – few of the platforms are laid out, with nothing to stand on, the IEL protectors end up being few and far between.
Security is compromised and the microbes that live just beyond the border, begin to cause TROUBLE.
Defence system becomes dicey
With 70 to 80 % of the IELs failing to report for duty, the GUT defence system is weakened.
For mice this means
- lower levels of antimicrobial proteins,
- heightened immune activation and
- increased susceptibility to injury
Of mice and men
The current research is in mice, NOT MEN.
At this stage, it is clear mice should be eating greens………. but what works for mice, probably works for man as well.
A bite of broccoli, bitter as it may be, is already full of beneficial chemicals, besides doses of vitamins E, C, K, iron, zinc, selenium and a couple of polyphenols, broccoli florets are loaded with sulforaphane. This phytonutrient is a powerful anti-inflammatory with proven cancer fighting powers and it survives even if broccoli turns to mush.
Based on these findings in mice, broccoli contains another influential ingredient, which helps keep the sentinels serving on the gut border at their post so the immune system functions at its best.
So boil up a pot of broccoli for dinner tonight – it really is good for you !Exogenous Stimuli Maintain Intraepithelial Lymphocytes via Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Activation. Cell (2011) 147(3): 629-640. Ying Li, Silvia Innocentin, David R. Withers, Natalie A. Roberts, Alec R. Gallagher, Elena F. Grigorieva, Christoph Wilhelm, Marc Veldhoen.
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