Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The immune system: a target for functional foods?

  • Philip C. Calder (a1) and Samantha Kew (a1)

Abstract

The immune system acts to protect the host from infectious agents that exist in the environment (bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites) and from other noxious insults. The immune system is constantly active, acting to discriminate ‘non-self’ from ‘self’. The immune system has two functional divisions: the innate and the acquired. Both components involve various blood-borne factors (complement, antibodies, cytokines) and cells. A number of methodologies exist to assess aspects of immune function; many of these rely upon studying cells in culture ex vivo. There are large inter-individual variations in many immune functions even among the healthy. Genetics, age, gender, smoking habits, habitual levels of exercise, alcohol consumption, diet, stage in the female menstrual cycle, stress, history of infections and vaccinations, and early life experiences are likely to be important contributors to the observed variation. While it is clear that individuals with immune responses significantly below ‘normal’ are more susceptible to infectious agents and exhibit increased infectious morbidity and mortality, it is not clear how the variation in immune function among healthy individuals relates to variation in susceptibility to infection. Nutrient status is an important factor contributing to immune competence: undernutrition impairs the immune system, suppressing immune functions that are fundamental to host protection. Undernutrition leading to impairment of immune function can be due to insufficient intake of energy and macronutrients and/or due to deficiencies in specific micronutrients. Often these occur in combination. Nutrients that have been demonstrated (in either animal or human studies) to be required for the immune system to function efficiently include essential amino acids, the essential fatty acid linoleic acid, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, Zn, Cu, Fe and Se. Practically all forms of immunity may be affected by deficiencies in one or more of these nutrients. Animal and human studies have demonstrated that adding the deficient nutrient back to the diet can restore immune function and resistance to infection. Among the nutrients studied most in this regard are vitamin E and Zn. Increasing intakes of some nutrients above habitual and recommended levels can enhance some aspects of immune function. However, excess amounts of some nutrients also impair immune function. There is increasing evidence that probiotic bacteria improve host immune function. The effect of enhancing immune function on host resistance to infection in healthy individuals is not clear.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The immune system: a target for functional foods?
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The immune system: a target for functional foods?
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The immune system: a target for functional foods?
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Dr P. C. Calder, fax +44 23 8059 4383, email pcc@soton.ac.uk

References

Hide All
Arvola, T, Laiho, K, Torkkeli, S, Mykkanen, H, Salminen, S, Maunula, L & Isolauri, E (1999) Prophylactic Lactobacillus GG reduces antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children with respiratory infections: a randomised study. Pediatrics 104, L1–L4.
Baehner, RL, Boxer, LA, Allen, JM & Davis, J (1977) Auto-oxidation as a basis for altered function by polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Blood 50, 327335.
Bahl, R, Bhandari, N, Hambridge, KM & Bhan, MK (1988) Plasma zinc as a predictor of diarrhoeal and respiratory morbidity in children in an urban slum setting. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 68, 414S417S.
Beach, RS, Gershwin, ME & Hurley, LS (1982) Gestational zinc deprivation in mice: persistence of immunodeficiency for three generations. Science 218, 469471.
Beck, FWJ, Prasad, AS, Kaplan, J, Fitzgeral, JT & Brewer, GJ (1997) Changes in cytokine production and T cell sub-populations in experimentally induced zinc deficient humans. American Journal of Physiology 272, E1002–E1007.
Bendich, A (1993) Vitamin E and human immune functions. In Nutrition and Immunology, pp. 217228 [Klurfeld, DM, editor]. New York/London: Plenum Press.
Boxer, LA (1986) Regulation of phagocyte function by α-toco-pherol. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 45, 333344.
Calder, PC & Jackson, AA (2000) Undernutrition, infection and immune function. Nutrition Research Reviews 13, 329.
Calder, PC & Yaqoob, P (2000) The level of protein and type of fat in the diet of pregnant rats both affect lymphocyte function in the offspring. Nutrition Research 20, 9951005.
Castillo-duran, C, Heresi, G, Fisberg, M & Uauy, R (1987) Controlled trial of zinc supplementation during recovery from malnutrition: effects on growth and immune function. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 45, 602608.
Chandra, RK (1984) Excessive intake of zinc impairs immune responses. Journal of the American Medical Association 252, 14431446.
Chandra, RK (1991) 1990 McCollum Award Lecture. Nutrition and immunity: lessons from the past and new insights into the future. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 53, 10871101.
Chandra, RK & Dayton, DH (1982) Trace element regulation of immunity and infection. Nutrition Research 2, 721733.
Chavance, M, Herbeth, B, Fournier, C, Janot, C & Vernhes, G (1989) Vitamin status, immunity and infections in an elderly population. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 43, 827835.
Chirico, G, Marconi, M, Colombo, A, Chiara, A, Rondini, G & Ugazio, A (1983) Deficiency of neutrophil phagocytosis in premature infants: effect of vitamin E supplementation. Acta Pediatrica Scandanavica 72, 521524.
Corwin, LM & Schloss, J (1980) Role of antioxidants on the stimulation of the mitogen response. Journal of Nutrition 110, 24972505.
Cunningham-rundles, S (1998) Analytical methods for evaluation of immune response in nutrient intervention. Nutrition Reviews 56, S27–S37.
Devaraj, S, Li, D & Jialal, I (1996) The effects of α-tocopherol supplementation on monocyte function. Journal of Clinical Investigation 98, 756763.
Failla, ML & Hopkins, RG (1998) Is low copper status immunosuppressive? Nutrition Reviews 56, S59–S64.
Fraker, PJ, Gershwin, ME, Good, RA & Prasad, A (1986) Interrelationships between zinc and immune function. Federation Proceedings 45, 14741479.
Fraker, P & King, L (1998) Changes in regulation of lymphpoiesis and myelopoiesis in the zinc-deficient mouse. Nutrition Reviews 56, S65–S69.
Fraker, PJ, King, LE, Garvy, BA & Medina, CA (1993) The immunopathology of zinc deficiency in humans and rodents: a possible role for programmed cell death. In Nutrition and Immunology, pp. 267283 [ Klurfeld, DM. editor]. New York/London: Plenum Press.
Fukushima, Y, Kawata, Y, Hara, H, Terada, A &Mitsuoka, T (1998) Effect of probiotic formula on intestinal immunoglobulin A production in healthy children. International Journal of Food Microbiology 42, 3944.
Golden, MHN, Golden, BE, Harland, PSEG & Jackson, AA (1978) Zinc and immunocompetence in protein–energy malnutrition. Lancet i, 12261228.
Golden, MHN, Jackson, AA & Golden, BE (1977) Effect of zinc on thymus of recently malnourished children. Lancet ii, 10571059.
Goldin, BR (1998) Health benefits of probiotics British Journal of Nutrition 80, S203S207.
Gross, RL & Newberne, PM (1980) Role of nutrition in immunologic function. Physiological Reviews 60, 188302.
Han, SN & Meydani, SN (1999) Vitamin E and infectious disease in the aged. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 58, 697705.
Han, SN, Wu, D, Smith, DE, Beharka, A,Wang, H, Bender, BS & Meydani, SN (1998) Vitamin E supplementation increases splenocyte IL-2 and IFN-γ production in old mice infected with influenza virus. FASEB Journal 12, A819.
Hayek, MG, Taylor, SF, Bender, BS, Han, SN, Meydani, M,Smith, DE, Eghtesada, S & Meydani, SN (1997) Vitamin E supplementation decreases lung virus titers in mice infected with influenza. Journal of Infectious Diseases 176, 273276.
Herias, MV, Hessle, C, Telemo, E, Midtvedt, T, Hanson, LA & Wold, AE (1999) Immunomodulatory effects of Lactobacillus plantarum colonizing the intestine of gnotobiotic rats. Clinical and Experimental Immunology 116, 283290.
Kuvibidila, S, Yu, L, Ode, D & Warrier, RP (1993) The immune response in protein–energy malnutrition and single nutrient deficiencies. In Nutrition and Immunology, pp. 121155 [ Klurfeld, DM editor]. New York/London: Plenum Press.
Link-amster, H, Rochat, F, Saudan, KY, Mignot, O & Aeschlimann, JM (1994)Modulation of a specific humoral immune response and changes in intestinal flora mediated through fermented milk intake. FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology 10, 5564.
Lira, PI, Ashworth, A & Morris, SS (1998) Effect of zinc supplementation on the morbidity, immune function and growth of low birth weight full-term infants in northeast Brazil. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 69, 418S424S.
Mcdade, TW, Beck, MA, Kuzawa, C & Adair, SS (2001) Prenatal undernutrition, postnatal environments, and antibody response to vaccination in adolescence. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 74, 543548.
Meydani, SN, Barklund, MP, Liu, S, Meydani, M, Miller, RA, Cannon, JG, Morrow, FD, Rocklin, R & Blumberg, JB (1990) Vitamin E supplementation enhances cell-mediated immunity in healthy elderly subjects. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 52, 557563.
Meydani, SN & Beharka, AA (1998) Recent developments in vitamin E and immune response. Nutrition Reviews 56, S49–S58.
Meydani, SN, Endres, S, Woods, MM, Goldin, BR, Soo, C, Morrill-labrode, A, Dinarello, C & Gorbach, SL (1991) Oral (n — 3) fatty acid supplementation suppresses cytokine production and lymphocyte proliferation: comparison between young and older women. Journal of Nutrition 121, 547555.
Meydani, SN, Meydani, M, Blumberg, JB, Leka, LS, Siber, G, Loszewski, R, Thompson, C, Pedrosa, MC, Diamond, RD & Stollar, BD (1997) Vitamin E supplementation and in vivo immune response in healthy subjects. Journal of the American Medical Association 277, 13801386.
Meydani, SN, Meydani, M, Verdon, CP, Shapiro, AC, Blumberg, JB & Hayes, KC (1986) Vitamin E supplementation suppresses prostaglandin E2 synthesis and enhances the immune response in aged mice. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development 34, 191201.
Meydani, SN, Yogeeswaran, G, Liu, S, Baskar, S & Meydani, M (1988) Fish oil and tocopherol-induced changes in natural killer cell-mediated cytotoxicity and PGE2 synthesis in old and young mice. Journal of Nutrition 118, 12451252.
Moore, SE, Cole, TJ, Poskitt, EME, Sonko, BJ, Whitehead, RG, Mcgregor, IA& Prentice, AM (1997) Season of birth predicts mortality in rural Gambia. Nature 338, 434.
Naidu, AS, Bidlack, WR & Clemens, RA (1999) Probiotic spectra of lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 38, 13126.
Prasad, JS (1980) Effect of vitamin E supplementation on leukocyte function. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 33, 606608.
Prohaska, JR & Failla, ML (1993) Copper and immunity. In Nutrition and Immunology, pp. 309332 [ Klurfeld, DM. editor]. New York/London: Plenum Press.
Rayon, JI, Carver, JD, Wyble, LE, Wiener, D, Dickey, SS, Benford, VJ, Chen, LT & Lim, DV (1997) The fatty acid composition of maternal diet affects lung prostaglandin E2 levels and survival from Group B Streptococcal sepsis in neonatal rat pups. Journal of Nutrition 127, 19891992.
Rosado, JL, Lopez, P, Munoz, E, Martinez, H & Allen, LH (1997) Zinc supplementation reduced morbidity, but neither zinc nor iron supplementation affected growth or body composition of Mexican pre-schoolers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65, 1319.
Roy, SK, Tomkins, AM, Haider, R, Behra, RH, Akramuzzaman, SM, Mahalanabis, D & Fuchs, GJ (1999) Impact of zinc supplementation on subsequent growth and morbidity in Bangladeshi children with acute diarrhoea. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 53, 529534.
Schiffrin, EJ, Brassart, D, Servin, AL, Rochat, F & Donnet-hughes, A (1997) Immune modulation of blood leukocytes in humans by lactic acid bacteria: criteria for strain selection. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 66, S515–S520.
Scrimshaw, NS & Sangiovanni, JP (1997)Synergism of nutrition, infection and immunity: an overview. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 66, 464S477S.
Shankar, AH & Prasad, AS (1998) Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 68, 447S463S.
Tapazoglou, E, Prasad, AS, Hill, G, Brewer, GJ & Kaplan, J (1985) Decreased natural killer cell activity in patients with zinc deficiency and sickle cell disease. Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine 15, 1922.
Thies, F, Miles, EA, Nebe-von-caron, G, Powell, JR, Hurst, TL, Newsholme, EA & Calder, PC (2001 a) Influence of dietary supplementation with long chain n — 3 or n — 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids on blood inflammatory cell populations and functions and on plasma soluble adhesion molecules in healthy adults. Lipids 36, 11831193.
Thies, F, Nebe-von-caron, G, Powell, JR, Yaqoob, P, Newsholme, EA & Calder, PC (2001 b) Dietary supplementation with γ-linolenic acid or fish oil decreases T lymphocyte proliferation in healthy older humans. Journal of Nutrition 131, 19181927.
Vanderhoof, JA, Whitney, DB, Antonson, DL, Hanner, TL, Lupo, JV & Young, RJ (1999) Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children. Journal of Pediatrics 135, 564568.
Vobecky, JS, Vobecky, J, Shapcott, D & Rola-pleszczynski, M (1984) Nutritional influences on humoral and cell-mediated immunity in healthy infants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 3, 265.
Wang, Y, Huang, DS, Eskelson, CD & Watson, RR (1994) Long-term dietary vitamin E retards development of retro-virus-induced dysregulation in cytokine production. Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology 72, 7075.
Wellinghausen, N, Kirchner, H & Rink, L (1997) The immuno-biology of zinc. Immunology Today 18, 519521.
Yaqoob, P, Newsholme, EA & Calder, PC (1999) Comparison of cytokine production in cultures of whole human blood and purified mononuclear cells. Cytokine 11, 600605.
Yaqoob, P, Pala, HS, Cortina-borja, M, Newsholme, EA & Calder, PC (2000) Encapsulated fish oil enriched in α-tocopherol alters plasma phospholipid and mononuclear cell fatty acid compositions but not mononuclear cell functions. European Journal of Clinical Investigation 30, 260274.
Yoon, H, Dubarry, M, Bouley, C, Meredith, C, Portier, A, Tome, D, Renevot, O, Blachon, JL, Dugas, B, Drewitt, P & Postaire, E (1999) New insights in the validation of systemic biomarkers for the evaluation of the immunoregulatory properties of milk fermented with yoghurt culture and Lactobacillus casei (Actimel (R)): a prospective trial. International Journal of Immunotherapy 15, 7989.

Keywords

The immune system: a target for functional foods?

  • Philip C. Calder (a1) and Samantha Kew (a1)

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.