Determining reliable markers for nutritional modulation of immune functions and inflammation

Background

A well-functioning immune system is essential for human health and wellbeing. Nutrition plays a major role in shaping and optimising immune functions.

Objectives

This task force focuses on better understanding the impact of nutrition on immune functions and on determining reliable markers of immunomodulation and inflammation relevant to health and wellbeing. In the context of health claims regulation, the task force provides guidance for the design, assessment and interpretation of nutritional intervention studies that intend to modulate immune functions.

Impact

  • Peer-reviewed guidance documents on marker selection and interpretation have been produced by multiple expert groups from this task force. The use of common reliable markers in different studies facilitates data comparison and strengthens the evidence in nutrition and immunity.
  • This work is valuable for the design of nutrition interventions evaluating effects of foods and food components on immune functions, being thus useful for researchers struggling to scientifically substantiate immune-related health effects.
  • The latest publication (R. Albers et al., 2013) focuses on immunomodulation and had several thousands of full text views. It describes how to select immune markers for future trials and provides a framework for the interpretation of outcomes. A number of inflammatory challenges reflecting metabolic stress, infection and tissue damage have been described in the publication of P. Calder et al., 2013. Using multiple markers and dynamics of response is recommended and the application of standardised methods is outlined.

What’s New

  • A recent manuscript focuses on the modification of low-grade inflammation (LGI) in ageing. It concludes that slowing, controlling or reversing LGI may be an important way to prevent, or reduce the severity of, age-related functional decline and the onset of conditions affecting health and well-being. There is evidence to support specific dietary interventions as a strategy to control inflammageing.
  • An upcoming activity on Quality of Life Measure as a Marker of Infections’ will review and evaluate the relevance and level of validation of quality of life measures. The goal is to reach an expert consensus on the usefulness of quality of life assessments as an indicator of common infections in the population.
  • The task force members also intend to explore areas at the crossroads between nutrition and medicine. Two aspects might be considered, (i) examining how nutrition reduces the side effects of medical treatments in general; (ii) developing a review on how nutrition affects the response to vaccination.

For more detailed information, please contact Dr Tobias Recker at trecker@ilsieurope.be.

Task Force Members

 

Expert Groups

Immune Competence Across Lifespan: Impact of Nutrition on Immune Competence and its Consequences Later in Life – New

Objectives

While the importance of a well-functioning immune system is recognised, the critical nutrients supporting optimal immune development in the first years of life as well as the impact of early life nutrition on later life immune competence are still under debate. This activity is intended to explore first the interaction between nutrition and immune competence in early life. Markers relevant for health should be identified. Building on these markers, the influence of early life nutrition on health later in life will be evaluated in a second step.

Activity

Two multidisciplinary expert panels will review and define the state-of-the art on the following subjects:

  • Activity A: Key markers of immune competence early in life will be determined, as well as the impact of nutrition on these. Topics addressed will include acute gastrointestinal and respiratory infections as well as inflammatory conditions such as allergies;
  • Activity B: Building on the conclusions of subactivity A it is intended to review the relevance of the identified immune markers throughout life and to evaluate the impact of early life nutrition on health later in life.

It is intended to organise a workshop before submission of the manuscripts with an enlarged panel of multidisciplinary experts including the expert panels from activity A and B to build interaction between the two groups and to further forge connections between the two activities.

Expected Output

The output of this activity is expected to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. The outcomes will provide healthcare professionals with a recommendation of readouts for immune competence and nutritional recommendations for an optimal performing immune system early in life. It will further draw associations between early life nutrition and immune competence later in life.

Health Relevance of the Modification of Low-Grade Inflammation in Ageing: Causes, Effects and Health & Wellbeing Consequences of LGI

Objectives

Low-grade inflammation (LGI) is characterised by levels of inflammatory markers slightly above ‘normal’. LGI has been linked to several chronic adverse health conditions including obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases. It also occurs as a natural consequence of ageing. However, its relevance for several disease conditions is not clear. Moreover, it is not yet clarified if a reduction of LGI is really needed to optimise health in ageing. The aim of this project is to clarify if a modification in LGI could have a beneficial effect. Do strategies in reducing inflammation support or impair host defence? The project differs from previous activities as it does not start from a pathological viewpoint and, hence, does not generally consider a modification in the inflammatory response as positive treatment.

Activity

The review provides an overview of LGI and determines the potential drivers and effects of the “inflamed” phenotype observed in the elderly. The experts discuss the role of gut microbiota and immune system crosstalk and the gut-brain axis. In addition, the manuscript covers the interaction between liver, adipose tissue, skeletal muscle and additional body compartments in LGI condition. There is likely a key role for nutrition in influencing health and well-being through microbiota-mediated effects. Thus, achieving LGI attenuation or prevention with nutrition could be an important strategy to reduce incidence or severity of age-related functional decline and disease. However, relatively few studies have investigated the effects of dietary modification to target gut microbiota and / or LGI in elderly subjects.

Expected Output

Since the experts conclude conducting more research on dietary modification of gut microbiota, LGI and functional outcomes in elderly people, this publication provides recommendations for future (clinical) studies on LGI. These recommendations should help clarify how a modulation of LGI affects immune functions in the host and may benefit health. It could serve as a basis for facilitating the design and interpretation of research and could provide support for the development of health claims on food.

Expert Group Members

Immune Competence Across Lifespan: Impact of Nutrition on Immune Competence and its Consequences Later in Life – New


Health Relevance of the Modification of Low-grade Inflammation in Ageing: Causes, Effects and Health & Wellbeing Consequences of LGI

 

Poster

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

Publications

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