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How Cruciferous Vegetables Can Guard Against Infections

Eating a variety of vegetables has well-known health benefits. A recent study has uncovered a new reason to include cruciferous vegetables—like broccoli and cauliflower—in your diet: they contain natural molecules that could help your lungs fend off infections.

Cruciferous vegetables, including leafy greens and broccoli, could play a crucial role in maintaining lung health and boosting immunity. These veggies have been advocated by doctors for a long time due to their nutritional value. Not only do they contribute to overall health, but previous research indicates that incorporating more vegetables into your diet can reduce the risk of obesity, enhance mental well-being, lower the chances of heart disease, and promote gut health.

In a recent study conducted by researchers from the Francis Crick Institute in London, it was discovered that molecules present in cruciferous vegetables can enhance the activity of a protein called aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). This protein assists the lungs in establishing a robust defense against viral and bacterial infections.

The study, published in the journal Nature, sheds light on the AHR protein and its impact on lung health. Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a protein in our cells that regulates genes and helps metabolize specific enzymes. Prior research has shown that AHR also plays a role in immune system regulation and stem cell activity. Scientists have explored AHR’s potential for preventing and treating diseases like autoimmune disorders, inflammatory conditions, and even cancer.

So, how does AHR benefit lung health?

The study focused on the lung’s natural defense barrier that shields it from infections and pollutants. This barrier comprises two layers: endothelial cells and epithelial cells, which allow oxygen to enter while keeping out viruses and bacteria.

Dr. Andreas Wack, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the Francis Crick Institute, explains that they chose to study the effect of AHR on lung barriers because it had been extensively investigated in other barrier sites like the skin and gut but not much in the lungs.

AHR serves as an environmental sensor that can be activated by compounds found in food or produced by gut bacteria. It safeguards the lungs by promoting the expression of specific genes that support barrier function. However, the exact genes affected by AHR activation remain unclear.

To investigate, Dr. Wack’s team conducted experiments using mice. When mice were infected with the flu virus, they observed blood leaking into the lung spaces due to damage to the lung barrier. Interestingly, when AHR was overactivated, there was less blood leakage, indicating that AHR helped maintain the integrity of the lung barrier.

Furthermore, mice with enhanced AHR activity exhibited better resistance to flu viruses and bacterial infections. Those fed a diet rich in AHR ligands during infection had more intact lung barriers and less lung damage than mice on a control diet.

The findings of this study underline the significance of diet in maintaining lung health. Although the research is still in its early stages, it suggests that consuming a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables could have a positive impact on lung immunity. However, it’s important to note that these findings are based on preclinical data, and recommendations for dietary interventions for conditions like influenza cannot be made just yet.

Incorporating more cruciferous vegetables into your diet, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage, can contribute to better health. These veggies are not only nutritious but also rich in dietary fiber, vitamins (C, E, K, and B9), and phytonutrients that help reduce inflammation. Additionally, they contain compounds like glucosinolates that have been linked to potential cancer protection and defense against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

Health and nutrition experts recommend consuming 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily as part of a balanced diet, which can include these valuable cruciferous options.”

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