HEALTHY LIVING
03/05/2013 11:54 pm ET

Leafy Greens Could Play Important Role In Maintaining A Healthy Gut, Study Finds

Eat your greens -- your gut will thank you.

According to a new study in the journal Nature Immunology, green produce could play an important role in controlling immune cells vital to a healthy digestive system.

Researchers from the Walters + Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia found that innate lymphoid cells, which are a kind of immune cell, promote good intestinal health by keeping "bad" bacteria out of the intestine, and helping to control or prevent conditions like bowel cancer, food allergy and inflammatory disease.

And now, researchers have pinpointed a gene, called T-bet, that produces these innate lymphoid cells -- and the activity of this gene responds to signals from food.

Because proteins found in cruciferous vegetables -- which include broccoli and kale -- are already known by researchers to play a role in switching on the T-bet gene, they surmise that eating leafy greens could thereby play a role in gut health.

"We are very interested in looking at how the products of these vegetables are able to talk to T-bet to make [innate lymphoid cells], which will give us more insight into how the food we eat influences our immune system and gut bacteria," study researcher Dr. Gabrielle Belz said in a statement.

Recently, a study in the journal Nature showed another kind of food that can affect gut health: foods high in saturated fat. But unlike leafy greens, Scientific American reported that saturated fats might actually be bad for gut health, by raising the risk of colitis.

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