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Have you heard about pathogen-associated molecular patterns? Read on ...

Research from the University of Leicester, and published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, has identified harmful bacterial molecules, known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns, or PAMPs, in processed foods, such as sausages, burgers, ready meals, cheeses, chocolate and ready-chopped vegetables and how to prevent them from arising. These PAMPs are thought to increase your risk of diseases, specifically coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

But here's the really interesting part: fresh, whole, unprocessed food contains undetectable levels of PAMPs; they only develop during the manufacturing, processing and refrigeration process, especially during chopping and mincing. What's more, removal of PAMP molecules from the diet leads to weight loss and reduction in bad cholesterol: after testing volunteers on a diet low in PAMPs for one week, researchers discovered an 18 per cent reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol - which if maintained would be equivalent to a greater than 40 percent reduction in risk of developing coronary artery disease.

Dr Clett Erridge from the University of Leicester’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences who led the study explained: “It has been understood for many years that frequent consumption of highly processed foods, particularly processed meats, is associated with increased risk of developing a cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Our findings have now uncovered a potential mechanism by which this happens. In essence, 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.”

Key processed foods found to frequently contain high levels of PAMPs include foods containing minced meat (including sausages and burgers), ready meals (especially lasagne, bolognese), some cheeses, chocolate and some types of ready-chopped vegetables, such as onions. Foods containing these as ingredients, such as sauces and sandwiches, were also found to have a relatively high risk of PAMP contamination. The study suggests that when food is absolutely fresh, including any type of meat, fruit or vegetable, it contains undetectable levels of PAMPs. However, once it has been chopped finely, especially if minced, the PAMP content rises rapidly, day on day, even when stored at refrigeration temperature.