The Loh Down On Science

Smoothies for Health

Is the newest health smoothie a glass of nice, smooth . . . parasitic worm juice? 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

For some time, scientists have noticed that people infested with parasitic worms--ew--share a surprising trait.  They’re resistant to inflammatory diseases. Turns out many parasitic worms excrete a sugar-based, anti-inflammatory molecule called glycan. Glycan helps calm the host's immune system so it doesn't attack the parasites. That damps inflammation. 

Researchers studied the effect by feeding lab mice a high-fat diet. Hello, inflammation! Within six weeks the critters began exhibiting the negative effects of extreme obesity. These include high cholesterol, insulin resistance, high triglycerides. Not good. 

But when they gave half the mice a glycan solution from the worms along with their food? The mice still gained weight, but they didn't suffer the same negative health effects as the untreated chunky mice. 

Scientists concluded the anti-inflammatory effects of glycan helped offset the effects of the unhealthy diet. 

So think super-servings of fries and some parasitic worm juice on the side! Or perhaps not.


The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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