Findings from University of Illinois researchers reveal that eating foods that contain soluble fiber like apples oats and nuts can help us avoid and fight infection. The scientists studied mice to find that soluble fiber increases levels of specialized disease fighting proteins in the body known as Interleukin 4.
"Soluble fiber changes the personality of immune cells—they go from being pro-inflammatory, angry cells to anti-inflammatory, healing cells that help us recover faster from infection," said Gregory Freund, a professor in the U of I's College of Medicine and a faculty member in the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' Division of Nutritional Sciences.
The study, published May 2010 in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity compared mice given the same diet; one containing soluble fiber and the other insoluble fiber for six week. When the scientists injected a substance that mimics bacterial infection, the mice given soluble fiber showed "profound, positive changes in their immune systems".
The researchers also say consuming soluble fiber might offset some of the harm associated with obesity by calming inflammatory hormones.
"There are significant anti-inflammatory components in fat tissue and, if they were strategically unleashed, they could potentially protect obese people from further inflammatory insults, such as a heart attack or stroke. In obese animals, you can see the body compensating in an effort to protect itself," says Freund.
Consuming foods rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that include olive oil; salmon, tuna, sardines, and trout is beneficial, and also noted by the researchers who remind us that not all fat is bad.
Focusing on soluble fiber from apples, oat bran, lentils, oranges, carrots, strawberries and nuts could help fight infection and might also help reverse harmful inflammatory changes that occur from obesity and associated with a high fat diet. Mice given soluble fiber recovered 50 percent faster compared to those not and were half as sick compared to those not given soluble fiber.
In Charlotte, visit Earth Fare for a wide array of fresh bulk produce. Stock up on foods with soluble fiber that can help boost immunity and fight infection, as well as reversing the negative health effects of obesity.