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Study: Leafy green vegetables can help prevent disease

March 7, 2013

Most older adults recognize that eating leafy green vegetables is part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, but new research suggests that the connection might be stronger than originally thought. Scientists from The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia found that green vegetables could stimulate the production of a certain cell associated with lowering inflammation levels and preventing cancer.

The cells are known as innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), and medical experts have long known that they play an important role in digestive health. However, this new research sheds light on some other benefits. Scientists from the institute found that certain proteins in leafy green vegetables take the same pathway as a gene known as T-bet, which is responsible for the creation of ILCs. Experts hope the findings could influence how seniors choose their diet.

"We are very interested in looking at how the products of these vegetables are able to talk to T-bet to make ILCs, which will give us more insight into how the food we eat influences our immune system and gut bacteria," said Dr. Gabrielle Belz, one of the study's leaders. 

Perhaps most importantly, ILCs help reduce inflammation, which is often associated with the development of a number of dangerous conditions. In fact, according to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, inflammation is often seen as one of the most significant risk factors for cancer.

In addition to eating leafy green vegetables, there are some other dietary choices seniors can make to help lower levels of inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in fish like salmon and tuna, as well is in certain nuts, are especially important, according to U.S. News and World Report.