These greens contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which when added to mouse food significantly improves the animal health and immunity. Dr Veldhoen explained that I3C is converted into a polycyclic compound in the stomach, which can then get inside our cells and activate a very interesting molecule aryl hydrocarbon receptor or AhR.
AhR acts as a molecular switch to turn on/off expression of specific genes, including important immune molecules. It also induces expression of a P450 cytochrome gene, involved in the xenobiotics breakdown.
But the most interesting finding was that AhR plays essential role in sustaining a group of immune cells called intraepithelial lymphocytes (or IELs) in the small intestines and skin. These cells are very important to guard our barrier tissues against bacteria. Mice genetically engineered to lack the AhR gene had no IELs in their guts or skin and quickly lost weight and fitness when subjected to an agent mimicking acute intestinal infection. Importantly, normal wild-type mice fed on “no vegetables” diet behaved similarly bad, but the mice with the same diet which also included I3C supplement were healthy like the mice fed in the normal way. I3C works miracles! So, considering that humans too have IELs and the Ahr gene, it’s reasonable to learn from these mouse studies and start eating more vegetables. Because now we know that cabbage is’t just rich in fiber, vitamins and microelements, but also has loads of I3C and therefore is good to maintain our immunity. Bon Appetit!
P.S. You can watch Dr Veldhoen talking about his discovery below: