FEB 10, 2016 7:21 PM PST

Processed Food, PAMPs, and You

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
PAMPs in processed food may be making you sick.

Pathogen-associated molecular patterns, or PAMPs, are molecules associated with bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are recognized by the immune system.  Common PAMPs are lipopolysaccharide, flagella proteins, and double-stranded DNA.   These PAMPs bind Toll-like receptors (TLRs) that are produced by macrophages and dendritic cells.  TLRs then activate the immune system to fight off the invading pathogen.
Processed foods contain inflammatory PAMPs.

A University of Leicester study identified a link between PAMPs, processed food, and conditions like coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes.  According to study author Clett Erridge, “in essence, we have discovered that contaminating molecules that arise in processed foods from the overgrowth of a specific type of bacteria during refrigeration or food processing can cause our immune systems to over-react in a manner that might be damaging to health when we eat foods containing these molecules”.

In the study, 11 healthy participants followed a low-PAMP diet.  After one week, their “bad” LDL cholesterol decreased by 18% and their white blood cell count (an indicator of inflammation) decreased by 11%.  On top of that, the participants lost an average of 0.6 kg and slimmed down their waistlines by 1.5 cm.  

Erridge and colleagues hope to find a way to decrease PAMPs in processed foods, without altering the taste or quality.  Until then, think twice when reaching for that cheese, chocolate, or pre-made frozen meal.  Go for fresh foods instead!

Source: University of Leicester, Wikipedia
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
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