High fat diet

A high fat diet is unhealthy and bad for the body. But it has the capability to expel intestinal worms, says a new study from the Lancaster University and the University of Manchester in the UK.

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Intestinal worms and a high fat diet

Intestinal worms are parasites that thrive in the body at the cost of the nutrition and life of the human host. Around a billion people in the world suffer from these worm infestation. This is common in the developing nations with poor sanitation. The worms can deprive the host of nutrition and lead to malnutrition and death. Some worms like the whipworm leads to chronic large bowel infestation.

High fat diet
Life cycle of whipworms (Source: Health line)

The research team from the Lancaster University and the University of Manchester in the UK carried out a study to determine whether a high fat diet can aid in elimination of these worms.

The exact study details

The study was conducted on animals. Lead author Dr Evelyn Funjika, who was formerly with the Manchester university and is now at the University of Zambia, said:

In order to be able to study how nutrition affects parasite worm infection, we have been using a mouse model, Trichuris muris, closely related to the human whipworm Trichuris trichiura and seeing how a high-fat diet impacts immunity.”

High fat diet
The university of Lancaster (Source: Education abroad)

Earlier studies had revealed that the immune cells of the body that assist in the expulsion of these infective worms from the body are the T helper cells. And now, these researchers found out that the high fat diet causes an increase in a molecule present on the T helper cells. This is ST2 and it activates the T helper cells. The cells give a greater response and this eliminates the intestinal parasite from the gut.

More explanation and opinion

Dr John Worthington from the Department of Biomedical and Life Science at Lancaster University, co-author states:

“We were quite surprised by what we found during this study. High-fat diets are mostly associated with increased pathology during disease. However, in the case of whipworm infection this high fat diet licenses the T-helper cells to make the correct immune response to expel the worm.”

High fat diet
The university of Manchester (Source: Courses abroad)

Co-researcher, Professor Richard Grencis from the University of Manchester adds:

Our studies in mice on a standard diet demonstrate that ST2 is not normally triggered when expelling the parasite, but the high-fat diet boosts the levels of ST2 and hence allows expulsion via an alternative pathway.”

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And another co-lead Professor David Thornton from the University of Manchester opined:

It was really fascinating that simply altering the diet completely switched the immune response in the gut from one that fails to expel the parasite, to one that brings about all the correct mechanisms to eliminate it.”

The cheapest diets in the developing world are also junk foods and high in fats. But by altering the diet to this fat rich diet can eliminate worms.