If you know anything about food medicine or even nutrition, you know the foods you eat affect your body through various mechanisms and processes. But have you ever stopped to think about how the ginger knows to stop your upset stomach? Or what garlic does once it’s in your digestive system to boost your immune function and reduce inflammation? A new study delved into these questions and found some remarkable evidence for interspecies communication at a cellular level.
Published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, the study looked at the role of exosomes, “small vesicles secreted by plant and animal cells that participate in intercellular communication.” These are the words, if you will, shared between cells who need to communicate with one another.
As GreenMedInfo reports, the researchers explained the term as such:
“Exosomes are produced by a variety of mammalian cells including immune, epithelial, and tumor cells [11–15]. Exosomes play a role in intercellular communication and can transport mRNA, miRNA, bioactive lipids, and proteins between cells [16–19]. Upon contact, exosomes transfer molecules that can render new properties and/or reprogram their recipient cells.”
In order to look at how plant and animal cells communicated, the scientists isolated exosome-like nanoparticles from foods like ginger, grapefruit, carrot, and grapes, then observed their actions in mice cells.
They chose foods that were known to have a range of health benefits, as they suspected the likelihood of identifying communication modes would be greater.
The scientists found these isolated food nanoparticles to have similar structure and size to mammalian-derived exosomes. They also found the mammalian intestinal macrophages and stem cells to take up these exosome-like nanoparticles, and as a result, those mammalian cells underwent biological changes.
Those changes included:
- “Ginger exosome-like nanoparticles strongly induced heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and IL-10 expressed in macrophages, an indication of anti-inflammatory and antoxidant properties.”
- “Fruit-derived exosome-like nanoparticles including grape and grapefruit induced Wnt/TCF4 activation, which is a key component of the anti-inflammatory response.”
- “All tested foods activated nuclear translocation of Nrf2, a key regulator of the HO1 gene, which has an important role in anti-inflammation and antioxidation; ginger was found to be most potent, followed by grapefruit, carrot and grape.”
In applying their findings to the knowledge that a varied plant-derived diet is healthier, the researchers had this to say:
“It has been known for decades that people eating a variety of edible plants daily are the recipients of many beneficial health effects when compared to subjects that ingest fewer types of edible plants. Ingesting EPDENs from a variety of fruits and vegetables daily would be expected to provide greater beneficial effects for maintaining gut homeostasis than ingesting EPDENs from single edible plant.”