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Blackcurrant compound may help asthmatics

31 Mar, 2010

Source: Plant & Food Research

A preliminary study shows that natural chemicals from blackcurrants may help breathing in some types of asthma.

Scientists at Plant & Food Research found that a compound from a New Zealand blackcurrant may reduce lung inflammation with what they describe as “a multi-action assault in allergy-induced asthma”.

Fruit consumption has already been shown to reduce symptoms in allergy-induced asthma. However, this research is the first to give insights into the mechanism by which this may occur.

In laboratory experiments, the compound was found to enhance the natural defence mechanisms in lung tissue by both suppressing inflammation-causing reactions and minimising inflammation.

The component epigallocatechin was identified as reducing inflammation in lung tissue. It is a known antioxidant and a major component of proanthocyanidins found in blackcurrants.

In this study, cells from lung tissue were used to test the effects on the immune system of a proanthocyanidin-rich extract from blackcurrant cultivars grown in New Zealand.

When the lungs are exposed to allergens, the body’s natural response is to attack the perceived foreign body, which results in long-term inflammation in some individuals. Scientists think 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

 “To find natural compounds that potentially reduce lung inflammation and complement the body’s own immune response is an exciting breakthrough,” says Dr Roger 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 conventional drug treatments for asthma and even other allergic reactions.”

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