Vegetables protect against inflammatory diseases, TCD study finds

Natural sources of vitamin A could reduce IBDs that cause damage

Professor Kingston Mills in his lab at Trinity College Dublin.Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Professor Kingston Mills in his lab at Trinity College Dublin.Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 14:52

More Vitamin A in your diet could protect you against inflammatory bowel diseases, Irish scientists have shown.

The researchers from Trinity College Dublin have shown that mice given a natural derivative of Vitamin A, retinoic acid, presented with increased anti-inflammatory and decreased pro-inflammatory responses from the body’s immune system.

Inflammation is a normal part of the immune response. However, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) can occur when the immune system causes excessive inflammation in the intestine, resulting in damage to the intestinal tissues.

IBDs are very common, says Professor Kingston Mills, professor of Experimental Immunology in TCD. It is a disease which affects 15,000 people in Ireland and over 2 million people across Europe.

These are currently treated with immunosuppressants which are often toxic and can produce side-effects, Prof Mills, who headed the research, says.

Using retinoic acid to treat mice with colitis, an IBD, scientists could significantly diminish the effects of the disease, through reducing the inflammation and stimulating repair of the damaged cells, Prof Mills says.

Commenting on the significance of the results Prof Mills says, “Our finding provide valuable new information on the ‘ying and yang’ of the immune system and how its dysregulation can lead to inflammatory diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.”

These findings, showing retinoic acid’s contribution to the immune response, “has confirmed the importance of Vitamin A-rich green and root vegetables in our diet”, Prof Mills says.

The research was published this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, and is funded by Science Foundation Ireland.