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Five plus a day keeps inflammation at bay

29 July 2013

Scope 51

The foods we eat play an important role in shaping our overall health. Growing evidence suggests they could also help alleviate disease.

Dr Odette Shaw.

Inflammation is a key feature of many diseases, including asthma. Often described as inflammation of the airways, asthma affects over 20% of New Zealanders. The ability to control lung inflammation through diet, thus reducing the reliance on the corticosteroid inhalers currently used to treat asthma, would be a significant step forward for sufferers.

Working together with Plant & Food Research, Dr Jacquie Harper and colleagues are profiling the anti-inflammatory properties of New Zealand fruit crops to identify candidate fruits that could be utilised to alleviate lung inflammation in individuals with asthma.

Using mouse models of allergic airway inflammation, Dr Harper and Senior Research Officer Dr Odette Shaw (pictured), have evaluated a range of fruit extracts for their ability to modulate inflammation. In doing so, they have identified a fruit species that is capable of suppressing inflammatory cell infiltration and chronic lung damage.

The effects of these fruit extracts are profound, as can be seen in the below images of treated and untreated asthmatic mouse lungs. Uncontrolled airway inflammation can lead to permanent structural changes in the lung, such as increased mucous production and thickening of the walls lining the airways (indicated by arrows).


A: Healthy lung. B: Healthy lung treated with fruit extract. C: Asthmatic inflamed lung, with arrows indicating extensive cell infiltration. D: Asthmatic lung treated with fruit extract. Note how this image looks very similar to those of the healthy lungs.

Dr Shaw was able to show that the fruit species helped repair the inflammation induced lung remodeling of asthmatic mice, effectively restoring lung function.

These basic research results have shown such great promise that the fruit extracts are now being trialled in asthma patients, in collaboration with Prof Richard Beasley from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand.

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