Brussels sprout good things in your guts

Australian researchers identified a type of immune cell affected by the leafy greens we eat. The cells help control conditions like food allergies, bowel cancer and inflammatory disease.

Bringing the world yet another reason to “eat your vegetables,” new research reveals that immune cells essential to intestinal health could be controlled by leafy greens in your diet.

Researchers from the Walters + Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia found that a type of immune cell called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), promotes good intestinal health by keeping "bad" bacteria out of the intestine, helping control or prevent conditions like bowel cancer, food allergies and inflammatory disease. Researchers identified a gene, called T-bet, that produces these cells. And they found that it responds to signals in the food we eat.

The proteins in leafy green vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cabbage interact with a cell surface receptor that switches on T-bet, and might play a role in producing these critical immune cells, according to Gabrielle Belz, a scientist on the study team. “ILCs are essential for immune surveillance of the digestive system and this is the first time that we have identified a gene responsible for the production of ILCs,” said Belz.

ILCs are essential for maintaining the delicate balance between tolerance, immunity and inflammation. “We are very interested in looking at how the products of these vegetables are able to talk to T-bet to make ILCs, which will give us more insight into how the food we eat influences our immune system and gut bacteria,” said Belz.

The research was published in the journal Nature Immunology.

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