Can we train the gut against them?

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Targeting specific proteins could help strengthen the gut microbiome against certain chronic diseases. Michela Ravasio/Getty Images
  • Scientists have recently focused on learning more about the gut microbiome and its role in overall health.
  • The billions of microorganisms in the gut contribute to various important processes that help keep the body healthy.
  • Researchers have recently discovered that the mucosal immune system can be trained to protect itself against a specific protein, helping it combat the negative effects of eating foods with added food emulsifiers, at least in mice.
  • This could offer a potential new way to train the mucosal immune system to help protect against chronic inflammatory diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.

In recent years, researchers have paid a lot of attention to the gut microbiome and its effects on a person’s overall health.

Whether it’s ensuring that the body absorbs everything it needs (from the foods eaten or helping the body defend against infections), it’s clear that the billions of bacteria and other microorganisms in the digestive tract play an important role in maintaining a person’s health.

However, maintaining the healthy functioning of the gut microbiome can sometimes prove difficult, because diet, drugsAnd environmental factors can have a negative impact on one’s balance.

Today, researchers from the Cochin Institute, INSERM and Paris Cité University, France, have discovered via a mouse model that the mucosal immune system can be trained to protect against a specific protein, helping it combat the negative effects of eating foods containing food emulsifiers.

This study was recently published in the journal Biology PLOS.

For this study, Dr. Benoit Chassaing, Inserm principal researcher at Institut Cochin, INSERM and Université Paris Cité, France, and his team decided to train the mucosal immune system against a specific protein called flagellin. This particular protein plays an important role in conduct movement of bacterial cells, which can potentially trigger inflammation in the body.

Additionally, when food emulsifiers cause changes to the gut microbiome, the protective lining of the gut may no longer be able to keep bad microbes out, potentially causing chronic gut inflammation.

“Microbiota encroachment is key,” explained Dr. Chassaing when asked why they decided to focus on flagellin. “And we know that flagella – (a) filamentous appendage expressed by members of the microbiota – are a very important motility factor for microbiota encroachment.”

Using a mouse model, the researchers trained the immune system in the mice’s intestinal lining to target flagellin, thereby conferring immunity against the protein. The mice were then fed foods containing common food emulsifiers. carboxymethylcellulose And polysorbate 80.

The scientists found that mice immunized with flagellin did not experience an invasion of microbes into their intestinal lining after consuming the emulsifiers.

Additionally, the researchers found that flagellin immunization appeared to help protect mice against chronic intestinal inflammation and metabolic deregulations usually observed after ingestion of food emulsifiers.

“Our results suggest that targeting flagellate bacteria in the intestinal tract could offer innovative ways to beneficially modulate the gut microbiota to protect against a spectrum of microbiota-related chronic inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease. intestine and metabolic disorders. »

— Dr. Benoit Chassaing

Everyone knows that oil and water generally don’t mix. However, in some processed and prepackaged foods, it is necessary to obtain two or more substances that would not typically mix.

This is where food emulsifiers come into play. These are food additives used to help combine food ingredients that do not do so naturally.

THE US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the use of food emulsifiers in foods in the United States. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also approves all food additives, including emulsifiers, used in foods in European countries.

Some commonly used food emulsifiers include:

Food emulsifiers are used in a variety of foods, including:

Although emulsifiers used in foods are generally considered safe, consuming too many as part of a diet high in processed and packaged foods can potentially be harmful to your health.

A study carried out in March 2021 found that food emulsifiers could be a new solution. modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer. Other research published in December 2022 Suggested food emulsifiers may aggravate food allergies.

And previous studies have examined the impact of food emulsifiers on the gut microbiome. A study conducted in November 2020 found that emulsifiers can change composition and gut microbiota activity, while another study published in March 2021 found that certain emulsifiers can edit directly the intestinal microbiota and promote inflammation of the intestines.

“Food emulsifiers (promote) functional alterations of the gut microbiota, particularly promoting microbiota encroachment into the normally sterile mucus layer,” explained Dr. Chassaing, lead author of the study. Medical news today.

“This is also observed in mice and humans during soluble fiber deprivation (and) chronic inflammatory diseases (s)uggesting that this phenomenon is an important player in microbiota-associated diseases. Therefore, developing an approach to inhibit/prevent microbiota encroachment could have many health benefits,” he added.

MNT also spoke with Perri Halperin, clinical nutrition coordinator in the Department of Bariatric Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital, about this study.

She said it is important to have a way to combat the potential harmful effects of food emulsifiers on the gut, as research has shown that some food emulsifiers can contribute to low-grade inflammation in the gut. , which may result from the ability of said emulsifiers to affect the intestinal microbiota.

“A variety of chronic diseases such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease are associated with low-grade intestinal inflammation. Thus, the ability to combat the potential harmful effects of ingesting food emulsifiers, namely their role in low-grade inflammation, could reduce the risk and occurrence of chronic diseases.
—Perri Halperin

“This research suggests that the use of microbiota-derived antigens to vaccinate against certain chronic diseases involving alterations in the gut due to food additives has potential,” Halperin added.

“By controlling motile bacteria, preventing microbiota encroachment, and promoting a generally less pro-inflammatory microbiota in humans, this could provide a prophylactic/therapeutic approach to protect against various inflammatory diseases,” he said. she declared.

As for what she would like to see as next steps for this research, Halperin commented that this research has limitations because it was conducted on animal subjects rather than humans.

“It is important to note that the treatment regimen used in this study, with repeated injections of purified flagellin, is not applicable in a clinical setting. Further research is needed to exploit the use of microbiota-derived antigens to vaccinate against chronic diseases,” she added.

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