Improving gut barriers

Three papers on gut barriers, with the first a 2020 review of four intestinal barrier layers:

“The epithelial cell layer and outer/inner mucin layer constitute the physical barrier. Intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) produced by epithelial cells and antibacterial proteins secreted by Panneth cells represent the functional barrier.

Multiple layers of this barrier, from intestinal lumen to systemic circulation, include:

  1. Luminal intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) that dephosphorylates bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to detoxify it;
  2. Mucus layer that provides a physical barrier preventing interactions between gut bacteria and intestinal epithelial cells;
  3. Tight junctions between epithelial cells that limit paracellular transport of bacteria and/or bacterial products to systemic circulation; and
  4. Antibacterial proteins secreted by specialized intestinal epithelial cells or Paneth cells, and IgA [immunoglobulin A] secreted by immune cells present in lamina propria underlying the epithelial cell layer.


The presence of LPS in systemic circulation is identified as a causal or complicating factor in diverse diseases such as:

  • Diet-induced metabolic diseases;
  • Autism;
  • Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • Arthritis;
  • Obesity-induced osteoarthritis;
  • Asthma; and
  • Several autoimmune diseases.

Causal relationships between circulating LPS levels and development of multiple diseases underscore the importance of changes in intestinal barrier layers associated with disease development.

Correcting intestinal barrier dysfunction to modulate multiple diseases can be envisioned as a viable therapeutic option. Identifying precise defects by use of specific biomarkers would facilitate targeted interventions.” “Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction, LPS Translocation, and Disease Development”

A second 2020 review focused on IAP:

“IAP plays a vital role in intestinal barrier function, affecting bicarbonate secretion, duodenal surface pH, nutrient resorption, local intestinal inflammation, and gut microbiota. Disturbances of IAP functions are associated with persistent inflammatory diseases associated with aging (i.e.,inflammageing), inflammatory bowel diseases, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Expression and activity of IAP are directly affected by food intake, i.e., quantity and type of macro- and micronutrients including vitamins and other bioactive nutrients, or by absence of food, as well as indirectly by composition of gut microbiota that in turn are highly dependent on food intake. Increased IAP gene expression and activity promoting detoxification of LPS may lead to improvement of both intestinal and systemic inflammation, reduced bacteria translocation, and maintaining gut barrier function.

IAP could be used as an inflammatory marker together with other markers, such as interleukins, to predict inflammation and diseases that are based on chronic inflammatory processes.” “Intestinal alkaline phosphatase modulation by food components: predictive, preventive, and personalized strategies for novel treatment options in chronic kidney disease” (not freely available)

A third paper was a 2021 rodent study by coauthors of the first paper:

“We developed intestine-specific IAP transgenic mice (IAPTg) overexpressing human chimeric IAP to examine direct effects of increased IAP expression on barrier function and development of metabolic diseases. We evaluated effects of intestine-specific IAP overexpression in hyperlipidemic Ldlr−/− mice. The data presented demonstrated significant attenuation of Western-type diet (WD)-induced LPS translocation in Ldlr−/−IAPTg mice, with significant reduction in intestinal lipid absorption, hyperlipidemia, hepatic lipids, and development of atherosclerotic lesions.


IAP is produced by enterocytes, and catalyzes removal of 1 of the 2 phosphate groups from the toxic lipid A moiety of LPS. This produces monophosphoryl-LPS, and results in attenuation of the downstream TLR (Toll-like receptor)-4–dependent inflammatory cascade.

IAP also:

  • Dephosphorylates other proinflammatory molecules such as flagellin and ATP, resulting in their detoxification;
  • Regulates expression of key gap junction proteins (zonula occludens, claudin, and occludin) and their cellular localization, which directly modulates intestinal barrier function;
  • Promotes growth of various commensal bacteria in the gut by decreasing luminal concentrations of nucleotide triphosphates via dephosphorylation; and
  • Translocates from the apical surface of enterocytes during fat absorption. Increased serum IAP accompanies fat absorption, which is consistent with observed increased levels of circulating LPS in WD-fed mice, providing one more likely mechanism by which WD affects intestinal barrier function via IAP.

Nutrients and food components/supplements that increase IAP include galacto- or chito- oligosaccharides, glucomannan, and vitamin D3. These provide a novel opportunity to develop simple strategies for modulation of diet/nutrition to target metabolic diseases including diabetes, fatty liver disease, atherosclerosis, and heart disease.” “Over-Expression of Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase Attenuates Atherosclerosis”

Previously curated IAP studies were:


Gut and brain health

This 2021 human review subject was interactions of gut health and disease with brain health and disease:

“Actions of microbial metabolites are key for appropriate gut-brain communication in humans. Among these metabolites, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), tryptophan, and bile acid metabolites / pathways show strong preclinical evidence for involvement in various aspects of brain function and behaviour.

Dietary fibres, proteins, and fats ingested by the host contain components which are metabolized by microbiota. SCFAs are produced from fermentation of fibres, and tryptophan-kynurenine (TRP-KYN) metabolites from dietary proteins. Primary bile acids derived from liver metabolism aid in lipid digestion, but can be deconjugated and bio-transformed into secondary bile acids.


One of the greatest challenges with human microbiota studies is making inferences about composition of colonic microbiota from faeces. There are known differences between faecal and caecal microbiota composition in humans along with spatial variation across the gastrointestinal tract.

It is difficult to interpret microbiome-host associations without identifying the driving influence in such an interaction. Large cohort studies may require thousands of participants on order to reach 20 % explanatory power for a certain host-trait with specific microbiota-associated metrics (Shannon diversity, relative microbial abundance). Collection of metadata is important to allow for a better comparison between studies, and to identify differentially abundant microbes arising from confounding variables.” “Mining Microbes for Mental Health: Determining the Role of Microbial Metabolic Pathways in Human Brain Health and Disease”

Don’t understand why these researchers handcuffed themselves by only using PubMed searches. For example, two papers were cited for:

“Conjugated and unconjugated bile acids, as well as taurine or glycine alone, are potential neuroactive ligands in humans.”

Compare scientific coverage of PubMed with Scopus:

  • 2017 paper: PubMed citations 39; Scopus citations 69.
  • 2019 paper: PubMed citations 69; Scopus citations 102.

Large numbers of papers intentionally missing from PubMed probably influenced this review’s findings, such as:

  1. “There are too few fibromyalgia and migraine microbiome-related studies to make definitive conclusions. However, one fibromyalgia study found altered microbial species associated with SCFA and tryptophan metabolism, as well as changes in serum levels of SCFAs. Similarly, the sole migraine-microbiota study reported an increased abundance of the kynurenine synthesis GBM (gut-brain module).
  2. Due to heterogeneity of stroke and vascular disease conditions, it is difficult to make substantial comparisons between studies. There is convincing evidence for involvement of specific microbial genera / species and a neurovascular condition in humans. However, taxa were linked to LPS biosynthesis rather than SCFA production.
  3. Several studies suggest lasting microbial changes in response to prenatal or postnatal stress, though these do not provide evidence for involvement of SCFA, tryptophan, or bile-acid modifying bacteria. Similar to stress, there are very few studies assessing impact of post-traumatic stress disorder on microbiota.”

These researchers took on a difficult task. Their study design could have been better.




Take acetyl-L-carnitine for early-life trauma

This 2021 rodent study traumatized female mice during their last 20% of pregnancy, with effects that included:

  • Prenatally stressed pups raised by stressed mothers had normal cognitive function, but depressive-like behavior and social impairment;
  • Prenatally stressed pups raised by control mothers did not reverse behavioral deficits; and
  • Control pups raised by stressed mothers displayed prenatally stressed pups’ behavioral phenotypes.

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) protected against and reversed depressive-like behavior induced by prenatal trauma:

alcar regime

ALCAR was supplemented in drinking water of s → S mice either from weaning to adulthood (3–8 weeks), or for one week in adulthood (7–8 weeks). ALCAR supplementation from weaning rendered s → S mice resistant to developing depressive-like behavior.

ALCAR supplementation for 1 week during adulthood rescued depressive-like behavior. One week after ALCAR cessation, however, the anti-depressant effect of ALCAR was diminished.

Intergenerational trauma induces social deficits and depressive-like behavior through divergent and convergent mechanisms of both in utero and early-life parenting environments:

  • We establish 2-HG [2-hydroxyglutaric acid, a hypoxia and mitochondrial dysfunction marker, and an epigenetic modifier] as an early predictive biomarker for trauma-induced behavioral deficits; and
  • Demonstrate that early pharmacological correction of mitochondria metabolism dysfunction by ALCAR can permanently reverse behavioral deficits.” “Intergenerational trauma transmission is associated with brain metabotranscriptome remodeling and mitochondrial dysfunction”

Previously curated studies cited were:

This study had an effusive endorsement of acetyl-L-carnitine in its Discussion section, ending with:

“This has the potential to change lives of millions of people who suffer from major depression or have risk of developing this disabling disorder, particularly those in which depression arose from prenatal traumatic stress.”

I take a gram daily. Don’t know about prenatal trauma, but I’m certain what happened during my early childhood.

I asked both these researchers and those of Reference 70 for their estimates of a human equivalent to “0.3% ALCAR in drinking water.” Will update with their replies.


Cow milk causes disease

This 2021 review followed up Epigenetic effects of cow’s milk and many papers since then:

“Epidemiological studies associate intake of cow milk with an increased risk of diseases, which are associated with overactivated mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling. Milk’s physiological function to maintain high mTORC1 signaling at the beginning of mammalian life turns into adverse health effects when this postnatal endocrine and epigenetic system is not discontinued as designated by physiological processing of the lactation genome.

Milk is a signaling interface between the maternal lactation genome and the infant’s cellular mTORC1 system that orchestrates growth, anabolism, metabolic, immunological, and neurological programming. Pasteurization combined with refrigeration exposed human milk consumers to bioactive milk exosome (MEX)-derived micro-ribonucleic acids (miRs), augmenting milk’s mTORC1 activity compared to boiled, ultra-heat-treated, or fermented milk.

milk-mediated mTORC1 signaling

Milk consumption activates five major pathways stimulating mTORC1 via:

  1. Growth factors, including growth hormone, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor 1;
  2. Amino acids, especially branched-chain amino acids;
  3. Milk fat-derived palmitic acid;
  4. Milk sugar lactose; and
  5. Epigenetic modifiers, especially MEX-derived miRs.

Understanding milk’s interaction with the central hub of metabolic regulation, mTORC1, will open new avenues for prevention of common diseases.” “Lifetime Impact of Cow’s Milk on Overactivation of mTORC1: From Fetal to Childhood Overgrowth, Acne, Diabetes, Cancers, and Neurodegeneration”

This reviewer is somewhat of a zealot. Still, he cited 555 references.

His genotype may tolerate lactose, but he didn’t argue for it:

“After breast feeding, mucosal expression of lactase, an intestinal enzyme hydrolyzing lactose into glucose and galactose, is downregulated in all mammals with the exception of Neolithic humans, who developed LCT [lactase gene] mutations allowing persistent lactase expression.

Lactose content of milk makes up around 2–8% by weight. Lactose hydrolysis provides glucose and galactose, which both activate mTORC1:

  • During glucose abundance and glycolysis, sufficient cellular energy is produced in the form of ATP, which suppresses AMPK activity. Aldolase operates as a sensor for glucose availability that directly links glucose shortage to activation of AMPK.
  • Galactose via induction of oxidative stress activates mTORC1. Galactose-induced overactivation of mTORC1 promotes senescence of neural stem cells and aging of mesenchymal stem cells.

Lactobacilli used in food and dairy fermentation increase NRF2 activation, resulting in NRF2-induced sestrin expression, which attenuates mTORC1 activation.”

Giving children allergies with pets

This 2021 human study investigated development and persistence of allergies:

“Allergic rhinitis (AR) is a common IgE-mediated disorder involving troublesome symptoms of nasal congestion, nasal itch, sneezing, and associated eye symptoms. Like many chronic health conditions, AR stems from complex gene–environment interactions.

130 subjects with AR were recruited. Control population included 154 healthy children who underwent a regular physical examination in the same ear, nose and throat clinic as AR patients. Individuals with history of asthma or atopic dermatitis were excluded.

AR analysis

Plenty of contradictory associations exist as whether furred pet exposure (cats and dogs) may be a risk or a protective factor for AR development. Discrepancies are likely due to the ubiquitous nature of pet allergens, while pet owners are more concerned about sanitation and many other hygiene-related reasons.

Interaction of early-life pet exposure with methylation level of ADAM33 increased the risk for AR onset 1.423 times more in children. This study provides evidence that:

  • Early-life pet exposure and low methylation level of ADAM33 increase AR risk in children; and
  • The interaction between pet exposure and methylation level of ADAM33 may play an important role in development of AR.” “Interaction between early-life pet exposure and methylation pattern of ADAM33 on allergic rhinitis among children aged 3–6 years in China”

There’s nothing children can do about who their parents were. Exposing them to pet allergens, though, may be another example of early-life experiences causing lifelong effects.

Happy Mothers Day

This 2021 rodent study investigated effects on offspring of maternal high-fat diet (HFD) during gestation and lactation, and offspring HFD during young adulthood:

“We found that gestation was the most sensitive period to induce obesity in late life, and there was no difference between sexes in chance of obesity. Furthermore, we found that lactation and administration of a HFD post‐weaning increased incidence of lipid metabolism disorders and obesity in offspring.

gestational hfd effects on offspring

There are different windows of opportunity for programming epigenetically labile genes. Some studies support the alteration of epigenetic status during development as an important cause induced adult obesity.

Gestation is considered as the most sensitive period because high DNA synthesis and DNA methylation patterns are established for normal tissue development during the embryonic period. These two programming events are the times when the epigenetic state changes most widely in the life cycle.” “Gestational high-fat diet impaired demethylation of Pparα and induced obesity of offspring”

Hey mothers! Do what you please. But don’t turn around and deny consequences of your behavior and choices on your descendants’ physiology and behavior, and possibly those of further descendants.

Gestation, birth, infancy, and early childhood are critical periods for humans. There’s no going back to correct errors and problems.

Gut microbiota topics

Here are thirty 2019 and 2020 papers related to Switch on your Nrf2 signaling pathway topics. Started gathering research on this particular theme three months ago.

There are more researchers alive today than in the sum of all history, and they’re publishing. I can’t keep up with the torrent of interesting papers.


2020 A prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharide promotes tight junction assembly in intestinal epithelial cells via an AMPK-dependent pathway

2019 Polyphenols and Intestinal Permeability: Rationale and Future Perspectives

2020 Prebiotic effect of dietary polyphenols: A systematic review

2019 Protease‐activated receptor signaling in intestinal permeability regulation

2020 Intestinal vitamin D receptor signaling ameliorates dextran sulfate sodium‐induced colitis by suppressing necroptosis of intestinal epithelial cells

2019 Intestinal epithelial cells: at the interface of the microbiota and mucosal immunity

2020 The Immature Gut Barrier and Its Importance in Establishing Immunity in Newborn Mammals

2019 Prebiotics and the Modulation on the Microbiota-GALT-Brain Axis

2019 Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Bacterial Infections

2020 Vitamin D Modulates Intestinal Microbiota in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

2020 Microbial tryptophan metabolites regulate gut barrier function via the aryl hydrocarbon receptor

2019 Involvement of Astrocytes in the Process of Metabolic Syndrome

2020 Intestinal Bacteria Maintain Adult Enteric Nervous System and Nitrergic Neurons via Toll-like Receptor 2-induced Neurogenesis in Mice (not freely available)

2019 Akkermansia muciniphila ameliorates the age-related decline in colonic mucus thickness and attenuates immune activation in accelerated aging Ercc1−/Δ7 mice

2020 Plasticity of Paneth cells and their ability to regulate intestinal stem cells

2020 Coagulopathy associated with COVID-19 – Perspectives & Preventive strategies using a biological response modifier Glucan

2020 Synergy between Cell Surface Glycosidases and Glycan-Binding Proteins Dictates the Utilization of Specific Beta(1,3)-Glucans by Human Gut Bacteroides

2020 Shaping the Innate Immune Response by Dietary Glucans: Any Role in the Control of Cancer?

2020 Systemic microbial TLR2 agonists induce neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease mice

2019 Prebiotic supplementation in frail older people affects specific gut microbiota taxa but not global diversity

2020 Effectiveness of probiotics, prebiotics, and prebiotic‐like components in common functional foods

2020 Postbiotics-A Step Beyond Pre- and Probiotics

2019 Pain regulation by gut microbiota: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential

2020 Postbiotics: Metabolites and mechanisms involved in microbiota-host interactions

2020 Postbiotics against Pathogens Commonly Involved in Pediatric Infectious Diseases

2019 Glutamatergic Signaling Along The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis

2019 Lipoteichoic acid from the cell wall of a heat killed Lactobacillus paracasei D3-5 ameliorates aging-related leaky gut, inflammation and improves physical and cognitive functions: from C. elegans to mice

2020 Live and heat-killed cells of Lactobacillus plantarum Zhang-LL ease symptoms of chronic ulcerative colitis induced by dextran sulfate sodium in rats

2019 Health Benefits of Heat-Killed (Tyndallized) Probiotics: An Overview

2020 New Horizons in Microbiota and Metabolic Health Research (not freely available)

Long-lasting benefits of a common vaccine

This 2021 review subject was effects of the 100-year-old tuberculosis vaccine:

“Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is one of the most widely used vaccines. It protects against many non-mycobacterial infections secondary to its nonspecific immune effects.

The mechanism for these effects includes modification of innate and adaptive immunity. BCG vaccine is known to not only boost immune responses to many vaccines when they are co-administered, but also decreases severity of these infections when used alone.

Alteration in innate immunity is through histone modifications and epigenetic reprogramming of monocytes to develop an inflammatory phenotype, a process called trained immunity. Memory T cells of adaptive immunity are also responsible for resistance against secondary infections after administration of BCG vaccine, a process called heterologous immunity.

The PI3K/AKT pathway, another pathway for mediating immunity, was upregulated. This was supported by recent studies demonstrating its involvement in induction of trained immunity by both BCG and β-glucan.

BCG vaccine can modify both innate and adaptive immunity, and provide immunity not only against Mycobacterium tuberculosis but also other pathogens. Heterologous immunity and trained immunity contribute to pathophysiologic mechanisms which explain how a vaccine protects against unrelated pathogens.” “Bacillus Calmette-Guerin Vaccine and Nonspecific Immunity”

As inferred by “induction of trained immunity by both BCG and β-glucan” many of these findings also apply to yeast cell wall β-glucan treatments. See Choosing your future with β-glucan for a representative study.

Our first 1000 days

This 2021 review subject was a measurable aspect of our early lives:

“The first 1000 days from conception are a sensitive period for human development programming. During this period, environmental exposures may result in long-lasting epigenetic imprints that contribute to future developmental trajectories.

The present review reports on effects of adverse and protective environmental conditions occurring on glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) regulation in humans. Thirty-four studies were included.

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is key in regulating mobilization of energy. It is involved in stress reactivity and regulation, and it supports development of behavioral, cognitive, and socio-emotional domains.

The NR3C1 gene encodes for specific glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) in the mammalian brain, and it is epigenetically regulated by environmental exposures.

When mixed stressful conditions were not differentiated for their effects on NR3C1 methylation, no significant results were obtained, which speaks in favor of specificity of epigenetic vestiges of different adverse conditions. Specific maternal behaviors and caregiving actions – such as breastfeeding, sensitive and contingent interactive behavior, and gentle touch – consistently correlated with decreased NR3C1 methylation.

If the neuroendocrine system of a developing fetus and infant is particularly sensitive to environmental stimulations, this model may provide the epigenetic basis to inform promotion of family-centered prevention, treatment, and supportive interventions for at-risk conditions. A more ambiguous picture emerged for later effects of NR3C1 methylation on developmental outcomes during infancy and childhood, suggesting that future research should favor epigenome-wide approaches to long-term epigenetic programming in humans.” “Glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) methylation during the first thousand days: Environmental exposures and developmental outcomes” (not freely available). Thanks to Dr. Livio Provenci for providing a copy.

I respectfully disagree with recommendations for an EWAS approach during infancy and childhood. What happened to each of us wasn’t necessarily applicable to a group. Group statistics may make interesting research topics, but they won’t change anything for each individual.

Regarding treatment, our individual experiences and needs during our first 1000 days should be repeatedly sensed and felt in order to be therapeutic. Those memories are embedded in our needs because cognitive aspects of our brains weren’t developed then.

To become curative, we first sense and feel early needs and experiences. Later, we understand their contributions and continuations in our emotions, behavior, and thinking.

And then we can start to change who we were made into.

Gut microbiota and aging

This 2020 review explored the title subject:

“The human body contains 1013 human cells and 1014 commensal microbiota. Gut microbiota play vital roles in human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition.

Human lifespan was thought to be determined by the combined influence of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors including lifestyle-associated factors such as exercise or diet. The role of symbiotic microorganisms has been ignored.

Age-associated alterations in composition, diversity, and functional features of gut microbiota are closely correlated with an age-related decline in immune system functioning (immunosenescence) and low-grade chronic inflammation (inflammaging). Immunosenescence and inflammaging do not have a unidirectional relationship. They exist in a mutually maintained state where immunosenescence is induced by inflammaging and vice versa.

Immunosenescence changes result in both quantitative and qualitative modifications of specific cellular subpopulations such as T cells, macrophages and natural killer cells as opposed to a global deterioration of the immune system. Neutrophils and macrophages from aged hosts are less active with diminished phagocytosing capability.

Gut microbiota transform environmental signals and dietary molecules into signaling metabolites to communicate with different organs and tissues in the host, mediating inflammation. Gut microbiota modulations via dietary or probiotics are useful anti-inflammaging and immunosenescence interventions.

The presence of microbiomic clocks in the human body makes noninvasive, accurate lifespan prediction possible. Prior to occurrence of aging-related diseases [shown above], bidirectional interactions between the gut and extraenteric tissue will change.

Correction of accelerated aging-associated gut dysbiosis is beneficial, suggesting a link between aging and gut microbiota that provides a rationale for microbiota-targeted interventions against age-related diseases. However, it is still unclear whether gut microbiota alterations are the cause or consequence of aging, and when and how to modulate gut microbiota to have anti-aging effects remain to be determined.” “Gut microbiota and aging” (not freely available; thanks to Dr. Zongxin Ling for providing a copy)

1. The “Stable phase” predecessor to this review’s subject deserved its own paper:

“After initial exposure and critical transitional windows within 3 years after birth, it is generally agreed that human gut microbiota develops into the typical adult structure and composition that is relatively stable in adults.

gut microbiota by age phenotype

However, the Human Microbiome Project revealed that various factors such as food modernization, vaccines, antibiotics, and taking extreme hygiene measures will reduce human exposure to microbial symbionts and led to shrinkage of the core microbiome, while the reduction in microbiome biodiversity can compromise the human immune system and predispose individuals to several modern diseases.”

2. I looked for the ten germ-free references in the “How germ-free animals help elucidate the mechanisms” section of The gut microbiome: its role in brain health in this review, but didn’t find them cited. Likewise, the five germ-free references in this review weren’t cited in that paper. Good to see a variety of relevant research.

There were a few overlapping research groups with this review’s “Gut-brain axis aging” section, although it covered only AD and PD research.

3. Inflammaging is well-documented, but is chronic inflammation a condition of chronological age?

A twenty-something today who ate highly-processed food all their life could have gut microbiota roughly equivalent to their great-great grandparents’ at advanced ages. Except their ancestors’ conditions may have been byproducts of “an unintended consequence of both developmental programmes and maintenance programmes.

Would gut microbiota be a measure of such a twenty-something’s biological age? Do we wait until they’re 60, and explain their conditions by demographics? What could they do to reset themself back to a chronological-age-appropriate phenotype?

The future of your brain is in your gut right now

A 2020 paper by the author of Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease:

“The gut and brain communicate bidirectionally via several pathways which include:

  1. Neural via the vagus nerve;
  2. Endocrine via the HPA axis;
  3. Neurotransmitters, some of which are synthesized by microbes;
  4. Immune via cytokines; and
  5. Metabolic via microbially generated short-chain fatty acids.

How does nature maintain the gut-microbiome-brain axis? Mechanisms to maintain homeostasis of intestinal epithelial cells and their underlying cells are a key consideration.

The symbiotic relationship that exists between microbiota and the human host is evident when considering nutrient requirements of each. The host provides food for microbes, which consume that food to produce metabolites necessary for health of the host.

Consider function of the human nervous system, not in isolation but in integration with the gastrointestinal ecosystem of the host, in expectation of a favorable impact on human health and behavior.” “Chapter 14 – The gut microbiome: its role in brain health” (not freely available)

Always more questions:

  1. What did you put into your gut today?
  2. What type of internal environment did it support?
  3. What “favorable impact on human health and behavior” do you expect from today’s intake?
  4. How will you feel?
  5. Will you let evidence guide feeding your gut environment?

See Harnessing endogenous defenses with broccoli sprouts for further elaboration. See Switch on your Nrf2 signaling pathway for an interview with these papers’ author.

A broccoli sprouts study that lacked evidence for human applicability

A 2020 study Combined Broccoli Sprouts and Green Tea Polyphenols Contribute to the Prevention of Estrogen Receptor–Negative Mammary Cancer via Cell Cycle Arrest and Inducing Apoptosis in HER2/neu Mice (not freely available) conclusion was:

“Lifelong BSp [broccoli sprouts] and GTP [green tea polyphenol] administration can prevent estrogen receptor–negative mammary tumorigenesis through cell cycle arrest and inducing apoptosis in HER2/neu mice.”

These researchers had unaddressed insufficiencies in this study that were also in their 2018 study as curated below. The largest item that required translation into human applicability was rodent diet content of 26% “broccoli sprout seeds.”

You may be surprised to read the below previous study’s unevidenced advice to eat double the weight of broccoli sprouts that I eat every day. You won’t be surprised that it’s not going to happen. Especially when no alternatives were presented because rodent diet details weren’t analyzed and published.

Sulforaphane is an evolved defense mechanism to ward off predators, and eating it is evolutionarily unpleasant. Will people in general and pregnant women in particular eat a diet equivalent to 26% “broccoli sprout seeds?”

Where were peer reviewer comments and researcher responses? Are these not public as they are by all Open Access journals hosted on

Sponsors and researchers become locked into paradigms that permit human-inapplicable animal research year after year. What keeps them from developing sufficient human-applicable evidence to support their hypotheses?

This 2018 Alabama rodent study investigated the epigenetic effects on developing breast cancer of timing a sulforaphane-based broccoli sprouts diet. Timing of the diet was as follows:

  1. Conception through weaning (postnatal day 28), named the Prenatal/maternal BSp (broccoli sprouts) treatment (what the mothers ate starting when they were adults at 12 weeks until their pups were weaned; the pups were never on a broccoli sprouts diet);
  2. Postnatal day 28 through the termination of the experiment, named the Postnatal early-life BSp treatment (what the offspring ate starting at 4 weeks; the mothers were never on a broccoli sprouts diet); and
  3. Postnatal day 56 through the termination of the experiment, named the Postnatal adult BSp treatment (what the offspring ate starting when they were adults at 8 weeks; the mothers were never on a broccoli sprouts diet).

“The experiment was terminated when the mean tumor diameter in the control mice exceeded 1.0 cm.

Our study indicates a prenatal/maternal BSp dietary treatment exhibited maximal preventive effects in inhibiting breast cancer development compared to postnatal early-life and adult BSp treatments in two transgenic mouse models that can develop breast cancer.

Postnatal early-life BSp treatment starting prior to puberty onset showed protective effects in prevention of breast cancer but was not as effective as the prenatal/maternal BSp treatment. However, adulthood-administered BSp diet did not reduce mammary tumorigenesis.

The prenatal/maternal BSp diet may:

  • Primarily influence histone modification processes rather than DNA methylation processes that may contribute to its early breast cancer prevention effects;
  • Exert its transplacental breast cancer chemoprevention effects through enhanced histone acetylation activator markers due to reduced HDAC1 expression and enzymatic activity.

This may be also due to the importance of a dietary intervention window that occurs during a critical oncogenic transition period, which is in early life for these two tested transgenic mouse models. Determination of a critical oncogenic transition period could be complicated in humans, which may partially explain the controversial findings of the adult BSp treatment on breast cancer development in the tested mouse models as compared the previous studies. Thus long-term consumption of BSp diet is recommended to prevent cancers in humans.”

“The dietary concentration for BSp used in the mouse studies was 26% BSp in formulated diet, which is equivalent to 266 g (~4 cups) BSp/per day for human consumption. The concentration of BSp in this diet is physiological available and represents a practical consumption level in the human diet.

Prior to the experiment, we tested the potential influences of this prenatal/maternal BSp regimen on maternal and offspring health as well as mammary gland development in the offspring. Our results showed there was no negative effect of this dietary regimen on the above mentioned factors (data not shown) suggesting this diet is safe to use during pregnancy.”

I didn’t see where the above-labelled “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” diet content was defined. It’s one thing to state:

“SFN as the most abundant and bioactive compound in the BSp diet has been identified as a potent HDAC inhibitor that preferably influences histone acetylation processes.”

and describe how sulforaphane may do this and may do that, and include it in the study’s title. It’s another thing to quantify an animal study into findings that can help humans.

The study’s food manufacturer offers dietary products to the public without quantifying all contents. Good for them if they can stay in business by serving customers who can’t be bothered with scientific evidence.

Any difference between the above-labelled “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” and broccoli seeds? Where was any evidence that “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” and SPROUTED “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” were equivalent per this claim:

“Equivalent to 266 g (~4 cups) BSp/per day for human consumption. The concentration of BSp in this diet is physiological available and represents a practical consumption level in the human diet.”

To help humans, this animal study had to have more details than the food manufacturer provided. These researchers should have either tasked the manufacturer to specify “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” content, or contracted out analysis if they weren’t going to do it themselves.

Regarding timing of a broccoli sprouts diet for humans, this study didn’t provide evidence for recommending:

“Long-term consumption of BSp diet is recommended to prevent cancers in humans.” “Temporal efficacy of a sulforaphane-based broccoli sprout diet in prevention of breast cancer through modulation of epigenetic mechanisms”

Clearing out the 2020 queue of interesting papers

I’ve partially read these 39 studies and reviews, but haven’t taken time to curate them.

Early Life

  1. Intergenerational Transmission of Cortical Sulcal Patterns from Mothers to their Children (not freely available)
  2. Differences in DNA Methylation Reprogramming Underlie the Sexual Dimorphism of Behavioral Disorder Caused by Prenatal Stress in Rats
  3. Maternal Diabetes Induces Immune Dysfunction in Autistic Offspring Through Oxidative Stress in Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  4. Maternal prenatal depression and epigenetic age deceleration: testing potentially confounding effects of prenatal stress and SSRI use
  5. Maternal trauma and fear history predict BDNF methylation and gene expression in newborns
  6. Adverse childhood experiences, posttraumatic stress, and FKBP5 methylation patterns in postpartum women and their newborn infants (not freely available)
  7. Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double‐blind, controlled feeding study
  8. Preterm birth is associated with epigenetic programming of transgenerational hypertension in mice
  9. Epigenetic mechanisms activated by childhood adversity (not freely available)

Epigenetic clocks

  1. GrimAge outperforms other epigenetic clocks in the prediction of age-related clinical phenotypes and all-cause mortality (not freely available)
  2. Epigenetic age is a cell‐intrinsic property in transplanted human hematopoietic cells
  3. An epigenetic clock for human skeletal muscle
  4. Immune epigenetic age in pregnancy and 1 year after birth: Associations with weight change (not freely available)
  5. Vasomotor Symptoms and Accelerated Epigenetic Aging in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) (not freely available)
  6. Estimating breast tissue-specific DNA methylation age using next-generation sequencing data


  1. The Intersection of Epigenetics and Metabolism in Trained Immunity (not freely available)
  2. Leptin regulates exon-specific transcription of the Bdnf gene via epigenetic modifications mediated by an AKT/p300 HAT cascade
  3. Transcriptional Regulation of Inflammasomes
  4. Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells protect against CMS-induced depression-like behaviors in mice via regulating the Nrf2/HO-1 and TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathways
  5. Serotonin Modulates AhR Activation by Interfering with CYP1A1-Mediated Clearance of AhR Ligands
  6. Repeated stress exposure in mid-adolescence attenuates behavioral, noradrenergic, and epigenetic effects of trauma-like stress in early adult male rats
  7. Double-edged sword: The evolutionary consequences of the epigenetic silencing of transposable elements
  8. Blueprint of human thymopoiesis reveals molecular mechanisms of stage-specific TCR enhancer activation
  9. Statin Treatment-Induced Development of Type 2 Diabetes: From Clinical Evidence to Mechanistic Insights
  10. Rewiring of glucose metabolism defines trained immunity induced by oxidized low-density lipoprotein
  11. Chronic Mild Stress Modified Epigenetic Mechanisms Leading to Accelerated Senescence and Impaired Cognitive Performance in Mice
  12. FKBP5-associated miRNA signature as a putative biomarker for PTSD in recently traumatized individuals
  13. Metabolic and epigenetic regulation of T-cell exhaustion (not freely available)


  1. Molecular and cellular mechanisms of aging in hematopoietic stem cells and their niches
  2. Epigenetic regulation of bone remodeling by natural compounds
  3. Microglial Corpse Clearance: Lessons From Macrophages
  4. Plasma proteomic biomarker signature of age predicts health and life span
  5. Ancestral stress programs sex-specific biological aging trajectories and non-communicable disease risk

Broccoli sprouts

  1. Dietary Indole-3-Carbinol Alleviated Spleen Enlargement, Enhanced IgG Response in C3H/HeN Mice Infected with Citrobacter rodentium
  2. Effects of caffeic acid on epigenetics in the brain of rats with chronic unpredictable mild stress
  3. Effects of sulforaphane in the central nervous system
  4. Thiol antioxidant thioredoxin reductase: A prospective biochemical crossroads between anticancer and antiparasitic treatments of the modern era (not freely available)
  5. Quantification of dicarbonyl compounds in commonly consumed foods and drinks; presentation of a food composition database for dicarbonyls (not freely available)
  6. Sulforaphane Reverses the Amyloid-β Oligomers Induced Depressive-Like Behavior (not freely available)

Treating psychopathological symptoms will somehow resolve causes?

This 2020 Swiss review subject was potential glutathione therapies for stress:

“We examine available data supporting a role for GSH levels and antioxidant function in the brain in relation to anxiety and stress-related psychopathologies. Several promising compounds could raise GSH levels in the brain by either increasing availability of its precursors or expression of GSH-regulating enzymes through activation of Nrf2.

GSH is the main cellular antioxidant found in all mammalian tissues. In the brain, GSH homeostasis has an additional level of complexity in that expression of GSH and GSH-related enzymes are not evenly distributed across all cell types, requiring coordination between neurons and astrocytes to neutralize oxidative insults.

Increased energy demand in situations of chronic stress leads to mitochondrial ROS overproduction, oxidative damage and exhaustion of GSH pools in the brain.

Several compounds can function as precursors of GSH by acting as cysteine (Cys) donors such as taurine or glutamate (Glu) donors such as glutamine (Gln). Other compounds stimulate synthesis and recycling of GSH through activation of the Nrf2 pathway including sulforaphane and melatonin. Compounds such as acetyl-L-carnitine can increase GSH levels.” “Therapeutic potential of glutathione-enhancers in stress-related psychopathologies” (not freely available)

Many animal studies of “stress-related psychopathologies” were cited without noting applicability to humans. These reviewers instead had curious none-of-this-means-anything disclaimers like:

“Comparisons between studies investigating brain disorders of such different nature such as psychiatric disorders or neurodegenerative diseases, or even between brain or non-brain related disorders should be made with caution.”

Regardless, this paper had informative sections for my 27th week of eating broccoli sprouts every day.

1. I forgot to mention in Broccoli sprout synergies that I’ve taken 500 mg of trimethyl glycine (aka betaine) twice a day for over 15 years. Section 3.1.2 highlighted amino acid glycine:

“Endogenous synthesis is insufficient to meet metabolic demands for most mammals (including humans) and additional glycine must be obtained from diet. While most research has focused on increasing cysteine levels in the brain in order to drive GSH synthesis, glycine supplementation alone or in combination with cysteine-enhancing compounds are gaining attention for their ability to enhance GSH.”

2. Amino acid taurine dropped off my supplement regimen last year after taking 500 mg twice a day for years. It’s back on now after reading Section 3.1.3:

“Most studies that reported enhanced GSH in the brain following taurine treatment were performed under a chronic regimen and used in age-related disease models.

Such positive effects of taurine on GSH levels may be explained by the fact that cysteine is the essential precursor to both metabolites, whereby taurine supplementation may drive metabolism of cysteine towards GSH synthesis.”

3. A study in Upgrade your brain’s switchboard with broccoli sprouts was cited for its potential:

“Thalamic GSH values significantly correlated with blood GSH levels, suggesting that peripheral GSH levels may be a marker of brain GSH content. Studies point to the capacity of sulforaphane to function both as a prophylactic against stress-induced behavioral changes and as a positive modulator in healthy animals.”

Sunrise minus 5 minutes