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Molecules in some vegetables can protect against Lung infection: Study

• Researchers have found cruciferous vegetables help maintain a healthy lung barrier and fight viral Infection. • Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and cabbage.

In a study, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London found that naturally occurring molecules in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli  — can enhance the local immunity at the lung barrier. The findings were published in the research journal Nature.

Cruciferous vegetables are part of a group of vegetables known as Brassica. The members are informally known as cabbages or mustard plants. There are more than 3,000 different kinds of cruciferous vegetables. The most common are:

  • Broccoli
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • kale
  • Radish
  • Brussel sprouts
  • turnips
  • bok choy

The lung barrier separates the body tissue and the air outside. This barrier is very thin to help exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. It comprises only two layers: one of the endothelial cells and one of the epithelial cells. Still, it must also be kept strong enough to prevent the entry of viruses, bacteria, and pollutants into the body. The protective mechanism is achieved through a variety of means. One is through the activity of a protein known as the Aryl hydrocarbon receptor(AHR).

What happens to the lung barrier in infection, and how does AHR protect?

During viral Infection, the lung endothelial–epithelial cell barrier is disrupted. It causes cell damage and fluid accumulation in the air spaces and adversely affects the vital gas exchange function. The AHR is highly active in lung endothelial cells and protects against viral-induced lung vascular leakage. Loss of AHR in endothelial tissue increases lung damage and promotes the leakage of red blood cells and leukocytes into alveolar air spaces. Moreover, barrier protection is compromised when endothelial AHR is missing.

What the Study found?

The Study established that molecules in cruciferous vegetables boost the AHR benefit. These natural molecules are dietary “ligands” for AHR, which means that once eaten, they activate AHR to target various genes. Some of these targeted genes switch off the AHR system, allowing its self-regulation. During the Study, scientists followed the mice model of research. When the mice had a flu viral infection, blood leaked into the lungs’ airspaces through the damaged lung barrier. Also, it was found that the AHR could prevent this leakage. If  AHR was overactivated, there would be less blood leakage in the lung spaces.

The finding demonstrated that maintaining protective AHR function requires a diet rich in naturally occurring AHR ligands, which activate disease tolerance pathways in lung endothelial cells to prevent tissue damage. The Study has identified a gut–lung axis that affects lung health following exposure to viral pathogens, linking dietary composition and intake to host fitness and inter-individual variations in disease outcome. 

How is the study significant?

Usually, People are not likely to maintain a good diet when they’re ill, so they aren’t taking in the molecules from vegetables that make this system work. It’s a good idea to eat lots of cruciferous vegetables and, even more important, to continue eating them when you’re ill.

There is a link between the diet and protection against lung infection through  endothelial cells, said the researchers in this Study


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