Nutritional immunology

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Nutritional immunology research is centered around studying the mechanisms underlying the modulation of immune responses by nutritional, naturally occurring and orally active compounds. Some of the leading teams of researchers in nutritional immunology research and discovery include the Immunology Laboratory at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University[1] and the Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory [2] (NIMML) at Virginia Tech.

Nutritional immunology researchers have discovered novel mechanisms by which naturally occurring compounds such as conjugated linoleic acid, abscisic acid, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, resveratrol, curcumin, limonin, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D modulate immune responses. Recent advances in nutritional immunology research include applying systems biology, as well as modelling and simulation approaches to accelerate the identification of novel therapeutic targets, biomarkers and the discovery of novel mechanisms of action. In one embodiment Nutritional Immunology relates to the preventive applications of personalized medicine with particular emphasis on immune modulatory effects of naturally occurring, safe and orally active compounds.

Nutritional immunology is an emerging discipline that evolved with the study of the detrimental effect of malnutrition on the immune system. While malnutrition still remains a worldwide problem, life-stage [neonate or old age] and natural stress are increasingly becoming the major causes of lowered immune status in both humans and animals. Unlike immunodeficiency caused by malnutrition, life-stage and natural stress need a more comprehensive strategy and cannot be addressed simply by correcting nutritional problems. Lowered immune status because of life-stage or natural stress is characterized by a reduced of antigen presenting cells [APC] function, resulting in a less efficient or altered immune response, leading to increased susceptibility to infections disease, increase in autoimmunity and cancers.

Beyond providing essential nutrients, diet can actively influence the immune system. Over 65% of the immune cells in the body are located in the gut, technically making the gut the ‘largest immune organ’. The immune receptors of the innate immune system present in the gut are the primary targets of strategies for immunomodulation via diet. Diet interacts with the immune system at multiple levels, starting with providing basic nutrients, moving on to providing higher levels of key nutrients such as protein, vitamins & minerals, leading to a more focused modulation of the immune system.

References[edit]

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21435623

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