LONDON — While it's been well-established that vegetables have many health benefits, the mechanisms behind them have largely remained unknown.
Now, new research from the Francis Crick Institute and Imperial College London offers concrete evidence that eating certain veggies can not only keep the bowels healthy - it also protects from cancer.
According to the study published in the journal Immunity, aryl hydrocarbon receptor or AhR is a protein that acts as an environmental sensor, protecting the gut from inflammatory responses to the bacteria that live in it.
Scientists studied mice that couldn't produce AhR, finding that they developed gut inflammation, which progressed to colon cancer.
The key to stimulating AhR is I3C or indole-3-carbinol, which is produced when vegetables from the Brassica genus like cabbage, broccoli, or kale, is digested.
Mice that were fed a diet rich in I3C didn't develop inflammation or cancer.
Those with cancer that were switched to the diet also ended up with fewer, more benign tumors.
The team now wants to see if the veggies have the same effect on people.
They're hoping to do further experiments in organoids made from biopsies of the human gut, and eventually go on to human trials.