How many parents out there are constantly telling their kiddos to ‘chew their food’ at the dinner table? Well, a new study reveals that the advice is more helpful than guardians may think. It turns out that chewing your food releases an immune cell that can help protect individuals against illnesses.
The research, published recently in the Immunity journal, revealed that chewing your food can prompt the release of Th17 cells, also known as T helper 17, within one’s mouth. These Th17 cells create an aspect of an individual’s adaptive immune system, which engages certain antigens to protect against possible harmful pathogens, while bearing ‘friendly’ bacteria that is good for a person’s health. The team also notes that these T helper 17 cells are created via the existence of this ‘good’ bacteria, in a person’s skin and gut; with the means of how the cells are created in the mouth unclear still.
The study was conducted by the University of Manchester in the UK, with Dr. Joanne Konkel acting as the lead author. The team notes that the motorized force needed for chewing can result in damage or scrapes in a person’s mouth. With this idea, the study aimed to find out whether this type of damage would play a part when it came to Th17 cell production in the mouth.
The team established their findings by giving weaning mice soft foods, that didn’t need a lot of chewing, until the little rodents turned 24 weeks. When they hit that age, the Th17 cell release was measured in the mice’s mouths.
A huge decrease in Th17 cell production within the mouth was found, which the team believe was low due to chewing-induced physical damage within the mouth.
Looking into this idea, the team discovered that heightening the levels of this damage in the mice’s mouths, via rubbing their oral cavity with a sterile cotton swab, resulted in a higher production of Th17 cells. The team feels these finding point towards the fact that chewing food can protect individuals from infection.
Still, the team does also note that increased production of Th17 cells in the mouth might not always be good thing. They stated there are enhanced chances of gum disease, periodontitis, and it can also be linked to other health issues like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
Medical News Today reported that the researchers also found that over the long term, physical damage from chewing can enhance periodontitis effects. The team discovered this when they fed weaning mice hard food pellets up to 24 weeks of age, when compared with the mice that were given soft food, these mice showed more oral chewing-induced physical damage and enhanced periodontal bone loss.
Despite this, the team still strongly believes that their study results could pave a path of new strategies to battle a wide variety of infections.