The researchers discovered that AhR repairs damaged epithelial cells. Without the reparative effect of AhR, intestinal stem cells fail to differentiate, instead dividing uncontrollably which can ultimately lead to colon cancer.
"The profound effect of diet on gut inflammation and colon cancer was very striking," -Dr Gitta Stockinger, Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute
The good news is that many vegetables produce chemicals that keep AhR levels active in the intestine, potentially restoring epithelial cell differentiation and offering resistance to intestinal infections and colon cancer. The effect of AhR is important, but genetic factors are also an important consideration that predispose individuals to colon cancer. Although AhR cannot eliminate the genetic factors, those risks can be lessened by the protective nature of AhR. Th research also suggests that even without genetic risk factors, a diet missing vegetables can lead to colon cancer.
Although the reseacrh is preliminary, with more studies planned, the link between increased consumption of vegetables and a lowered risk of inflammation and colon cancer is compelling. As scientists uncover the mechanisms responsible for the lowered risk, perhaps drugs targeting those pathways can be developed that are effective at reducing the incidence of colon cancer. In the meantime, dish up an extra serving of those leafy greens-according to science, it can't hurt.