The study sheds light on the mechanism behind the protective effects of vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, and reinforces the importance of including them in a healthy diet
By: Kimberly Rodrigues
A recent study conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania State University, US, has revealed how consuming broccoli can help protect the lining of the small intestine in mice, and prevent the development of diseases.
The study sheds light on the mechanism behind the protective effects of vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, and reinforces the importance of including them in a healthy diet.
The researchers discovered that aryl hydrocarbon receptor ligands in broccoli bind to a protein called aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) on the small intestine’s wall, which acts as a transcription factor.
Published in the journal Laboratory Investigation, the study states notes that this binding initiates a variety of activities that affect the functions of intestinal cells, including enterocytes, goblet cells, and Paneth cells.
These cells help maintain balance by regulating the entry of nutrients and water while keeping out harmful particles and bacteria.
In the study, the researchers administered a diet containing 15% broccoli to an experimental group of mice, equivalent to about 3.5 cups per day for humans, while a control group was given a typical lab diet without broccoli.
The researchers examined the tissues of the animals to assess the activation of AHR and the levels of the intestinal lining cells.
They found that the mice which were not given broccoli had a decreased AHR activity. This reduction in AHR activity led to changes in the intestinal barrier function, causing food to pass through the small intestine more quickly, and a decrease in the concentration of cells that line 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 study author Gary Perdew.
He added, “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 resilience of the small intestine.”
Andrew Patterson, another author of the study, stated that the findings indicate that the activity of AHR, triggered by dietary cues, can alter the metabolic and cellular characteristics of the gastrointestinal tract.
With inputs from PTI