Fatty foods can help you get rid of deadly intestinal parasites, ‘surprising’ study finds

Many of us are wary of including too much fat in our diet. In addition to weight gain, it can also increase the risk of problems such as high cholesterol and heart disease. But now research has shown that a high-fat diet can benefit the immune system in a very unusual way.

Scientists from Lancaster and Manchester Universities have found that a high-fat diet allows the immune system to destroy parasitic worms.

Parasitic worms infect millions of people, especially in developing countries with poor sanitation, leading to illness and even death.

One of these parasites, known as the whipworm, can cause long-term infections in the colon.

Lead author Dr Evelyn Fujika, formerly of Manchester and now at the University of Zambia, explained how food can affect parasites.

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In a university release, she said: “As in the UK, the cheapest diets are often high in fat, and communities at risk of whipworm infection are increasingly using these cheap diets.

“Therefore, how worm infestation and the Western diet interact remains unknown to developing countries.

“To be able to study how diet influences parasitic worm infestation, we used a mouse model, trichuris muris, closely related to the human whipworm trichuris trichiura, and observed how a high-fat diet affected immunity.”

It has previously been shown that the immune response that expels the parasite depends on white blood cells called T helper 2, which are specialized to eliminate gastrointestinal parasites.

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These results, published in the journal Mucosal Immunology, show how a high-fat diet, not obesity itself, increases a molecule on T-helper cells called ST2.

This then allows for an increase in the T-helper 2 response, which expels the parasite from the colonic mucosa.

One of the leaders of the study, Dr John Worthington of Lancaster University, said: “We were quite surprised by what we found in this study.

“High-fat diets are mostly associated with increased pathology during illness.

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“However, in the case of a whipworm infection, this high-fat diet allows T-helper cells to mount the correct immune response to expel the worm.”

His colleague Professor Richard Grancis of the University of Manchester added: “Our studies in mice on a standard diet show that ST2 is not normally triggered by parasite expulsion, but a high-fat diet raises ST2 levels and therefore allows expulsion by an alternative route.”

However, Dr. Worthington issued a warning.

“Before you order that extra takeaway, we previously posted that weight loss can help expel another intestinal parasite,” he said.

“So these results may be context dependent, but what’s really interesting is demonstrating how diet can profoundly alter the ability to develop protective immunity, and this could give us new clues to treat the millions of people who suffer from intestinal parasitic infections around the world.” “.

It is believed that more than 400 million people worldwide are affected by whipworm.

Whipworm infection, also known as trichuriasis, is accompanied by symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding, and anemia.

It can also lead to malnutrition with certain nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin A, iron, and zinc.

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