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Monitoring Immune Modulation by Nutrition in the General Population: Identifying and Substantiating Effects on Human Health


British Journal of Nutrition. 2013;110(2):S1-S30

An effectively functioning immune system is essential for human health and wellbeing. The immune system is influenced by a variety of factors, including nutrition. Given the critical role of immune function, it is no surprise that solutions to help restore or optimize immune functions are much sought after. In the context of the health claims regulation, competent authorities are challenging the substantiation of ingredient/food claims to return the immune system to normality, or optimize its function. This paper defines the parameters to indicate this degree of function. It provides guidance for the assessment and interpretation of immune modulation in future nutrition studies. In this review, a prioritized list of immune markers that describes the immune modulation induced by a dietary intervention in a general population is provided. Immune domains considered include defense against pathogens, avoidance of allergic reactions and reduction of asymptomatic (low-grade, metabolic) inflammation. Markers were evaluated with a scoring system which involves criteria covering biological relevance, biological sensitivity and feasibility of measurement. Finally, guidelines for the interpretation of marker modulation in the context of a nutrition study are outlined. Overall, the review provides comprehensive guidance for interpretation of outcomes in studies of nutrition and immunity in the general population, while remaining open to future identification of suitable markers. This expert guidance can be applied to experimental design and interpretation to support immune benefits.

The open-access PDF is accessible here.

An invited commentary on this paper is accessible here.

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