Broccoli found to enhance intestinal activity, keep disease at bay


NEW DELHI: Researchers have uncovered details about the mechanism by which broccoli helps protect the lining of the small intestine, thereby inhibiting the development of disease in mice.

The study from Pennsylvania State University, US, provided strong evidence for why vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts should be part of a normal healthy diet.

According to the researchers, they found that molecules in broccoli, called aryl hydrocarbon receptor ligands, bind to aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) on the wall of the small intestine, which is a type of protein called a transcription factor.

This binding, they found, initiates a variety of activities that affect the functions of intestinal cells.

Their findings are published in the journal Laboratory Investigation.

Certain cells that line the intestine, or intestinal cells, help to modulate the entry of beneficial water and nutrients to pass into the body and keep out harmful food particles and bacteria, thereby maintaining balance.

These cells include enterocytes that absorb water and nutrients, goblet cells that secrete protective layer of mucus and Paneth cells, secreting lysosomes that contain digestive enzymes.

In this study, the researchers fed an experimental group of mice a diet containing 15 per cent broccoli – the human equivalent of about 3.5 cups per day – and fed a control group of mice a typical lab diet that did not contain broccoli.

They then analysed the animals’ tissues to study the extent of AHR activation and the concentrations of the intestinal lining cells.

They found that the mice not fed broccoli lacked AHR activity.

The lowered AHR activity was found to result in an altered intestinal barrier function, reducing the transit time of food in the small intestine and also the concentrations of the cells lining the intestine.

“The gut health of the mice that were not fed broccoli was compromised in a variety of ways that are known to be associated with disease,” said Perdew.

“Our research suggests that broccoli and likely other foods can be used as natural sources of AHR ligands, and that diets rich in these ligands contribute to the resilience of the small intestine,” said study author Gary Perdew.

“These data suggest that dietary cues, relayed through the activity of AHR, can reshape the cellular and metabolic repertoire of the gastrointestinal tract,” said another study author Andrew Patterson.

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