Using the Produce Aisle to Boost Immune Function

October 10, 2019

“Using the Produce Aisle
to Boost Immune Function” What we eat,
or don’t eat, can affect our
immune system. This study was conducted
to determine the effect of the consumption of
brightly colored vegetables on the immune system. The first two weeks basically
no fruits and veggies, then two weeks drinking a cup
and a half of tomato juice every day, then carrot juice,
then spinach powder. This is a graph of a
marker of immune function over those eight weeks. Within just two weeks of a
fruit and veggie deficient diet, immune function plummets, but just a cup and a half
of tomato juice can bring us back
from the ashes. Not 5 servings a day, just that
tall glass of tomato juice, but the carrot juice alone
didn’t seem to work as well, nor did the the powder equivalent
of about one serving of spinach. This says to me 2 things— 1. How remarkably we can affect
our immune function with simple dietary decisions, and 2. not all veggies
are alike. Though this study was repeated
looking at other immune markers and the tomato versus carrot
appeared more evenly matched. there is one family of vegetables we definitely don’t want to miss out on. Inflammation, leaky gut, all because of an
absence of AHR ligands. In other words, an absence
of cruciferous vegetables in our diet: cabbage, collards, cauliflower,
kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli. So do people who eat healthier
actually get sick less? Those who eat more
fruits and vegetables appear to have lower risk of getting an upper respiratory
tract infection like the common cold whether they’re otherwise
vegetarian or not. Even just one
added apple a day may help keep the
doctor away. The common cold is so
innocuous, though. Why not test against
something stronger? One can also look
at more serious respiratory infections
like influenza. Looking at the relationship
between various risk factors and influenza-related hospitalizations
in the United States, they found that a 5% increase
in the prevalence of obesity was bad, associated with a 6%
increased hospitalization rate, but physical inactivity
was worse: 7%. But just that tiny bump
in the rates of low fruit and
vegetable consumption may increase flu-related
hospitalization rates even more. And the common cold
isn’t always innocuous. A common cold during the first
trimester of pregnancy is associated with a
number of birth defects including one of the worst, anencephaly, a fatal malformation
of the brain. More recent data suggests
it’s the fever, as anti-fever drugs appeared
able to prevent the possible birth defect
causing effect of the common cold, but even better, to not get
sick in the first place. A thousand women and their
diets were followed before and during pregnancy, and women who consumed more
fruits and vegetables had a moderate reduction in risk of upper respiratory tract
infection during pregnancy, and this benefit appears to
be derived from both fruits and vegetables
instead of either alone. Whole fruits and vegetables
provide a natural balance of all sorts of things that
may improve our immune function in a complementary, combined
or synergistic manner that could account for
the protective effect observed from high consumption of both fruits and
vegetables. Or maybe that’s the only
way they got enough. The women who appeared
protected in this study were eating nearly 9 servings
of fruits and vegetables a day, compared with only 5 servings
of fruits, or four of veggies. That may fulfill some arbitrary
five or six a day minimum, but may be insufficient
for effective immunity. For example in that famous study
I profiled previously, elderly individuals randomized
into a five a day group did have an improved antibody response
to their pneumonia vaccination, compared to just two servings of
fruits and vegetables a day— an 80% increase,
but only about 30% reached their target levels-
12 out of 40. Six times better than
the two-a-day group, but maybe eight, nine, or ten a
day would have worked better.

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