A 2010 study into New Zealand blackcurrants revealed how their naturally-occurring chemicals may help breathing in some types of asthma.
Researchers found a compound from a New Zealand blackcurrant may reduce lung inflammation with a multi-action assault in allergy-induced asthma. The compound was found in laboratory experiments to enhance the natural defence mechanisms in lung tissue by both suppressing inflammation-causing reactions and minimising inflammation.
Fruit consumption has been shown to reduce symptoms in allergy-induced asthma and this research was the first to give insights into the mechanism by which this may occur. The researchers identified that the component, epigallocatechin, reduced inflammation in lung tissue. Epigallocatechin is a known antioxidant and a major component of proanthocyanidins found in blackcurrants.
When the lungs are exposed to allergens, the body’s natural response is to attack the perceived foreign body which in some individuals results in long-term inflammation. Selective compounds found in fruit and vegetables may work together with the body’s own natural defence mechanism to suppress long-term lung inflammation.
This study shows that epigallocatechin from blackcurrants works in conjunction with other natural immune responses that occur at the same time to reduce inflammation. These actions are distinct from the inflammation-reducing activity of another group of compounds, anthocycanins, which are also rich in blackcurrants. Anthocyanins are known for their antioxidant properties and, interestingly, have been shown by Dr Hurst’s research group to also influence inflammatory mechanisms and complement the body’s own natural immune responses. The research shows some compounds in fruit thought to promote health with their antioxidant activity are keeping us well by other means.
“To find natural compounds that potentially reduce lung inflammation and complement the body’s own immune response is an exciting breakthrough,” says Dr Hurst. “Should we discover more about how this works we may eventually develop foods containing these compounds that could provide more natural alternatives to assist for asthma and even other allergic re-actions.”
The study, Blackcurrant proanthocyanidins augment IFN-c-induced suppression of IL-4 stimulated CCL26 secretion in alveolar epithelial cells, was published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research DOI 10.1002/mnfr.200900297