Molecule in cruciferous veggies may protect against lung infection

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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A recent study shows that molecules naturally found in cruciferous vegetables may protect the lungs from illness. skaman306/Getty Images
  • Research has shown that consuming a variety of vegetables provides a number of health benefits when consumed.
  • A recent study shows that molecules naturally found in cruciferous vegetables may help the lungs maintain a healthy barrier against infection.
  • The findings suggest that eating cruciferous veggies like leafy greens and broccoli could bolster immunity and preserve lung health.

For a very long time, doctors have urged people to eat more vegetables.

Not only are they nutritious, but previous research shows adding more veggies to a person’s diet can help reduce obesity risk, improve mental health, lower heart disease risk, and boost gut health.

In a recent study, researchers from the Francis Crick Institute in London have found that molecules naturally found in cruciferous vegetables — such as broccoli and cauliflower — can boost the activity of a protein called aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), helping the lungs to maintain a healthy barrier against viral and bacterial infection.

The findings were recently published in the journal Nature.

During the study, scientists observed mice with increased AHR activity did not lose as much weight when infected with the flu virus. Additionally, the AHR-enhanced mice could better fight off bacterial infection and the already-introduced flu virus.

Researchers also found the flu infection caused a decrease in protective lung AHR activity only in mice fed AHR ligands in their diet before the illness.

Mice that consumed an AHR ligand-rich diet during infection had better lung barrier integrity and less lung damage than those on a control diet.

“In mice without ligands in the diet, their AHR activity levels were low to start with, so if you don’t eat ligands, you have little AHR activity,” Dr. Wack explained to Medical News Today.

“When you eat them, then AHR activity increases. This activity can be dampened by sick behavior, i.e., not eating for some days.”

“This is probably not a good idea, so keep eating a healthy diet to upkeep AHR activity,” he added. “What is good for your gut — a healthy, rich, (and) varied diet containing AHR ligands — is probably also good for your lungs.”

After reviewing this study, Dr. Elliot Eisenberg, assistant professor of medicine (pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told MNT that the data was encouraging and demonstrated a potential protective effect of dietary intake on lung endothelial cell response to infection.

“As this is preclinical data, dietary recommendations for patients with influenza cannot be made,” Dr. Eisenberg said.

“[The study data] does provide biological plausibility to support future clinical and translational endeavors assessing diet and clinical outcomes and adds to the growing body of literature supporting the role of diet and lung health.”

“Prior clinical research, including studies by Mount Sinai, have demonstrated healthy diet attenuates wheezing among teens with secondhand smoke exposure, and is associated with (a) slower decline in lung function amongst young adults.”

— Dr. Elliot Eisenberg, pulmonary and internal physician

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