Researchers established a link between inflammation and a common cellular process, autophagy , which could treat better or even prevent diseases of the gut (colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis). The results published in the journal Nature Communications.

The study demonstrated that autophagy (an essential process whereby cells break down and recycle harmful elements within themselves to keep our bodies healthy) causes tissue inflammation when dysfunctional, which in turn leaves us susceptible to harmful diseases, particularly in the gut.

Insights into the link could lead to more effective treatments for gut diseases and be giving healthcare professionals the ability to target the root cause of these diseases, by regulating and controlling autophagy.

Pomegranates, red grapes, pears, mushrooms, lentils, soybeans and green peas contain natural compounds which can activate autophagy, helping to prevent inflammation and gut diseases . The researchers have identified for the first time a protein which is regulated by autophagy.

The protein called Kenny contains a motif of amino acids that causes itself to be broken down by autophagy. When autophagy is dysfunctional, Kenny accumulates and causes inflammation.

The team studied the phenomenon in fruit flies by turning Kenny fluorescent so it would be visible and observe at a microscopic level that the protein was present in the cell where autophagy was occurring.

The also noted that dysfunctional autophagy causes serious inflammation in fruit flies particularly in the gut. The inflammation makes tissue inflamed, causing disease, and making the lifespan of a fruit fly half that of other flies.

To prevent serious diseases of the gut such as Colon cancer, Crohn's , and other diseases, caused by inflammation, it is necessary to find ways to control and regulate autophagy, the said said.

Humans are in even more danger from the link between autophagy, inflammation, and a dysfunctional or diseased gut since bodies lack the regular motif of amino acids, which makes it breakdown by autophagy difficult to control or regulate.

Understanding the molecular mechanisms of selective autophagy and inflammation will help to use interventions to activate the autophagic pathway to prevent inflammation and promote healthy well-being during the life course.

Dr Ioannis Nezis, the lead author of the research said: "Natural compounds contained in fruits and vegetables like pomegranates, red grapes, pears, mushrooms, lentils, soybeans and green peas have been shown to activate autophagy, therefore inclusion of the above in our diet would help to prevent inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of gut diseases. "