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This Dietary Fiber Activates the Immune System and Improves Metabolic Health
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Science: This Dietary Fiber Activates the Immune System and Improves Metabolic Health.
Diet directly impacts human health, exerting a significant influence on our physiological functions and metabolic processes. Healthy and well-balanced dietary habits play a crucial role in maintaining overall health and facilitating proper growth and development.
Chitin, also known as chitosan, is a natural polysaccharide found in abundance in arthropods, fungi, and marine organisms’ exoskeletons. It has the unique ability to trigger type 2 immune responses. However, until recently, the mechanism of action of chitin in mammalian bodies remained unclear.
On September 7, 2023, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in the United States published a research paper titled “A type 2 immune circuit in the stomach controls mammalian adaptation to dietary chitin” in the journal Science.
The study reveals that the consumption of chitin activates the innate immune response in the stomach, leading to increased production of chitinase enzymes. Introducing dietary chitin can enhance the metabolic health of high-fat diet-induced obese mice, resulting in reduced body weight, decreased body fat, and increased resistance to obesity.
The immune system serves as our body’s defense mechanism, protecting us against various threats, including bacteria, viruses, allergens, and cancer.
In this study, researchers analyzed the response of the mouse gastrointestinal tract to dietary chitin. They fed different groups of mice with diets containing 5-20% chitin or a cellulose-based control diet, with equivalent food intake.
The findings showed that compared to the control diet group, mice fed chitin had significant stomach expansion and increased stomach contents. The gastric epithelial cells rapidly responded to chitin, activating the innate immune response in the stomach and promoting the production of chitinase enzymes to break down chitin. Additionally, chitin-fed mice exhibited increased levels of gastrin and glucagon-like peptide-1.
Chitin induces an innate type 2 immune response
Since gut bacteria are the primary source of chitinase enzymes, the researchers conducted experiments using germ-free mice devoid of gut bacteria.
The study revealed that chitin consumption induced stomach expansion, an increase in eosinophilic granulocytes, expansion of ILC2s (innate lymphoid cells), and increased cluster cell proliferation in germ-free mice. This suggests that dietary chitin can activate the immune response even in the absence of gut microbiota.
Finally, given the influence of neuron-ILC2 interactions and type 2 immune responses on obesity, the researchers also investigated the impact of dietary chitin on obesity.
They found that when dietary chitin activated the immune system but remained undigested, it had the most significant effect on reducing mouse obesity. In obese mice on a high-fat diet lacking chitinase enzymes, the introduction of dietary chitin led to a significant decrease in body weight, reduced fat content, increased resistance to obesity, and significantly improved insulin sensitivity. This indicates that dietary chitin can regulate metabolism, contributing to metabolic homeostasis.
Chitin improves metabolic health in high-fat obese mice
In conclusion, the results suggest that dietary chitin activates the innate immune response and improves the metabolic health of high-fat diet-induced obese mice, leading to reduced body weight, decreased fat content, and increased resistance to obesity. This offers a new avenue for the treatment of metabolic diseases like obesity.
In the next steps, researchers plan to test whether chitin can control obesity in humans and explore methods to inhibit gastric chitinase enzymes.
Link to the paper:
(source:internet, reference only)