How the immune system influences food preferences and aversions

(ORDO NEWS) — New research from Yale University has found that the immune system plays a critical role in shaping our behavior towards allergens and toxins. The study, led by Ruslan Medzhitov, professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, sheds light on how our immune system interacts with the brain to encourage avoidance behavior.

Impact of allergies and food poisoning

People with allergies often avoid foods they are allergic to due to the possibility of severe reactions. Likewise, those who have experienced food poisoning from a particular dish try to avoid it in the future.

Although the immune system has long been known to be involved in these responses, it has been unclear whether it also influences our behavior towards these triggers.

The role of immune recognition in behavior

A recent study published in the journal Nature found that immune recognition is responsible for controlling behavior, particularly protecting against toxins and allergens.

The immune system communicates with the body through antibodies, which then transmit information to the brain. Without this connection, the brain is unable to alert the body to potential dangers in the environment, resulting in a lack of avoidance behavior.

Research process

To study this phenomenon, a group of researchers led by Medzhitov conducted experiments on mice sensitized to allergic reactions to the ova protein contained in chicken eggs. It was observed that sensitized mice avoided water containing ova, while control mice preferred water without ova.

This aversion persisted for several months in the sensitized mice.

Manipulation of immune system parameters

The researchers then explored the possibility of changing the behavior of the sensitized mice by manipulating immune system parameters.

They found that by blocking the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody produced by the immune system, the mice’s aversion to eggs in water disappeared. IgE antibodies cause the release of mast cells, a type of white blood cell that plays a critical role in transmitting information about aversive behavior to the brain.

Having interrupted the transfer of information, the mice stopped avoiding the allergen.

Implications for overreactions and allergen suppression

According to Medzhitov, these results indicate how the immune system has evolved to help animals avoid dangerous ecological niches. Understanding how the immune system remembers potential danger can lead to the development of interventions that suppress excessive reactions to allergens and other pathogens.

Expert Opinions and Quotes

– “We found that immune recognition controls behavior, particularly protective behavior against toxins, which is transmitted first through antibodies and then into our brain.” – Ruslan Medzhitov, Sterling Professor of Immunobiology, Yale School of Medicine


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