Could coffee, tea, and chocolate influence gut health?

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Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have made  fascinating discovery that could shed light on how the gut functions and why conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) develop.

heir new study, published in Immunity, explores the role of xanthine—a purine metabolite found in coffee, tea, and chocolate—in the differentiation of Th17 cells, a specific subtype of cells in the intestine.

A Mysterious Link Between Microbes and Immune Cells

The gut hosts a range of microbes that contribute to both health and disease.

While it’s long been thought that certain microbes are essential for the differentiation of Th17 cells, the research suggests there might be exceptions.

Th17 cells have a dual nature; they can both protect the gut and contribute to inflammatory diseases such as IBD, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis.

A Surprising Discovery: The Role of Xanthine

While investigating the steps leading to Th17 cell differentiation, the researchers stumbled upon the role of xanthine.

This compound, prevalent in caffeinated foods, appears to be involved in Th17 cell development in the gut.

Jinzhi Duan, Ph.D., and Richard Blumberg, MD, the study’s co-lead authors, noted that the discovery was unexpected but opens new doors for research.

They discovered that Th17 cells could differentiate even in germ-free mice or those treated with antibiotics to remove gut bacteria.

The researchers found that stress in the endoplasmic reticulum of intestinal epithelial cells led to Th17 cell differentiation via purine metabolites like xanthine.

What Does This Mean for Gut Health?

According to Richard Blumberg, MD, “It’s too soon to speculate on whether the amount of xanthine in a cup of coffee leads to helpful or harmful effects in a person’s gut.” Nevertheless, the study offers exciting leads for further research.

Next Steps and Limitations

Although the study makes strides in understanding Th17 cells and gut health, it does have limitations. For instance, the research does not identify why Th17 cells become pathogenic.

It’s also focused solely on the intestine and does not consider potential influences from other organs. Further studies on human-IBD Th17 cells are required to advance the research.

“While we don’t yet know what’s causing pathogenesis, the tools we have developed here may take us a step closer to understanding what causes disease and what could help resolve or prevent it,” concluded Blumberg.

The study paves the way for a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind gut health, potentially influencing how we approach the treatment and prevention of diseases like IBD.

If you care about gut health, please read studies about a major cause of leaky gut, and fatty liver disease, and eating nuts may help reduce risks of gut lesions and cancer.

For more information health, please read studies about low-carb diet may lower blood sugar in people with prediabetes, and vitamin D twice a day may keep vertigo problem away.

The research findings can be found in Immunity.

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