The phytonutrient cinnamaldehyde limits intestinal inflammation and enteric parasite infection.
J Nutr Biochem. 2021 Oct 13:108887. Epub 2021 Oct 13. PMID: 34655757
Phytonutrients such as cinnamaldehyde (CA) have been studied for their effects on metabolic diseases, but their influence on mucosal inflammation and immunity to enteric infection are not well documented. Here, we show that consumption of CA in mice significantly down-regulates transcriptional pathways connected to inflammation in the small intestine, and alters T-cell populations in mesenteric lymph nodes. During infection with the enteric helminth Heligomosomoides polygyrus, CA treatment attenuated infection-induced changes in biological pathways connected to cell cycle and mitotic activity, and tended to reduce worm burdens. Mechanistically, CA did not appear to exert activity through a prebiotic effect, as CA treatment did not significantly change the composition of the gut microbiota. Instead, in vitro experiments showed that CA directly induced xenobiotic metabolizing pathways in intestinal epithelial cells and suppressed endotoxin-induced inflammatory responses in macrophages. Collectively, our results show that CA down-regulates inflammatory pathways in the intestinal mucosa and can limit the pathological response to enteric infection. These properties appear to be largely independent of the gut microbiota, and instead connected to the ability of CA to induce antioxidant pathways in intestinal cells. Our results encourage further investigation into the use of CA and related phytonutrients as functional food components to promote intestinal health in humans and animals.