‘inflammunity’ – The New Threat To Our Flagging Immune Systems
New report reveals the essential foods – including 100% fruit juice – that can keep inflammation in check and protect long-term immune health Living in the shadow of Covid-19 for the past few years has brought our immune systems into sharper focus than ever. With inflammation, a key driver of sluggish immune health, a new report - - Inflammunity: How Hidden Inflammation Is Harming Our Immune Response - commissioned on behalf of the Fruit Juice Science Centre, delves into the science surrounding the latest hot health topic, dubbed ‘inflammunity’. Plus, a real-world survey featured in the report reveals that just a quarter of Brits (25%) believe their immune system is very healthy.
Inflammation – the hidden immunity disruptor Report author and dietitian at the Fruit Juice Science Centre, Dr Carrie Ruxton, says: “Inflammation can seriously limit our immune response; a problem we’ve dubbed ‘inflammunity’. The negative effects of chronic inflammation in our bodies explain why people who are overweight or have underlying health conditions have tended to fare worse with Covid-19 symptoms.”
GP Dr Nisa Aslam adds. “One of the key ways we can safeguard our immune response is by reducing inflammation across the body.” When asked what they believed chronic inflammation can lead to, just under a quarter (23%) of survey respondents said it can jeopardise immunity, a quarter (25%) said it affects the body’s ability to fight infection, over a third (35%) said it can cause fatigue, and three in 10 (31%) said it can lead to poor metabolic health.
Let Mediterranean food be thy medicine Over half (56%) of those questioned in the Fruit Juice Science Centre survey correctly identified that certain foods or drinks can stimulate inflammation in the body, while almost one in six (59%) believed healthier foods and drinks can calm down inflammation.
Professor of Nutritional Immunology, Philip Calder, says: “The diet that seems to have the most support for lowering inflammation is the Mediterranean diet, which places a huge emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, oily fish, and just a little meat.”
“Evidence suggests that the high flavonoid content of a Mediterranean diet – which includes vitamin C-rich citrus fruits – plays a big part in the ability of this dietary pattern to lower inflammation,” explains Dr Ruxton, adding that, “Flavonoids are a class of polyphenols – powerful plant compounds – that are linked with good health across many different studies.”
A glassful of immune-supporting goodness It turns out there’s a simple, and delicious, step we can take to help tackle inflammunity – enjoying a daily glass of orange juice. GP Dr Gill Jenkins says, “It’s the key nutrients and bioactives in orange juice that make it such a brilliant tool for lowering, or even avoiding, chronic inflammation, and in turn help our immune system to do its job.”
She continues, “Adding a 150ml glass of pure orange juice to your daily diet can protect your immune system, according to recent research. Plus, one glass of orange juice contributes to the NHS recommendation of five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.”
Recipe for immune success So, what exactly is it about orange juice that makes it so good at fighting inflammation?
Amongst fruit juice drinkers in the new poll, the main reason given for their daily glass was to get their vitamins. Demonstrating that Brits have some nutrition knowledge when it comes to this healthy way to hydrate, nearly half (47%) of survey respondents said they drink orange juice for its vitamin C content, which is of course one of the main nutrient components in pure orange juice.
Professor Philip Calder explains: “Vitamin C affects inflammation by regulating cytokine production, and we know that too many cytokines can wreak havoc on inflammation status. Vitamin C also helps to increase levels of antibodies by supporting the growth of T- and B-lymphocytes, which are types of white blood cells that drive and direct our immunity response. Indeed, according to one study in the to a recent study in the journal of the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, vitamin C has a ‘potential protective and therapeutic role’ in helping to tackle Covid-19”.
But there’s even more health-promoting goodness in a simple glass of orange juice that many Brits aren’t aware of. Nearly half of respondents had never heard of carotenoids (43%) or bioactive plant compounds (42%) such as hesperidin, narirutin, and naringin – all found naturally in orange juice. Indeed, 45% said they’d never heard of polyphenols. Plus, 50% had no idea how polyphenols may have a positive effect on the body and only 11% thought that they could help with coronavirus. Focus on flavonoids Flavonoids, a type of polyphenol, can help reduce inflammation while a study in the journal, Nutrients, has found that a high intake of flavonoids can improve the ‘relative abundance of the gut microbiome’, which can play a part in helping combat ‘inflammunity’.
“The two stand-out flavonoids in orange juice are hesperidin and naringenin, and one benefit of juice over whole fruits is that the flavonoids are absorbed more efficiently by the body which is why a glass of juice complements whole fruits and vegetables in your diet. This is because the slightly higher fibre content of whole fruits (less than 1g) slows down and inhibits polyphenol absorption – so you end up with less in the blood proportionally,” explains Dr Ruxton.
Several health benefits have been attributed to hesperidin, which has been proven in a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition to be anti-inflammatory and to have antioxidant qualities. A pre-print study of a recent Montreal hospital trial where patients with Covid were given hesperidin versus dummy pills also found hesperidin – at higher doses than found in a glass of orange juice – to have anti-Covid symptom effects.
Furthermore, in a placebo controlled human trial published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, conducted on men and women with metabolic syndrome, 500 mg of hesperidin daily for three weeks significantly lowered blood concentrations of the inflammatory marker CRP. A glass of orange juice provides around 78 mg of hesperidin.
Additionally, naringenin, a citrus-derived flavonoid found in oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, grapefruit juice, lemons, and tomatoes, delivers a significant anti-inflammatory effect, according to a study in the journal Phytotherapy Research. The authors suggest that flavonoids, such as naringenin, kaempferol, quercetin, and apigenin, are amongst natural compounds that potentially inhibit the methods used by the novel coronavirus to replicate within our body cells7.
“Through the Fruit Juice Science Centre real world research poll, we’ve spotted gaps in our knowledge around the effects of inflammation on immune function, and ways we can support ourselves,” says Dr Ruxton, who offers her expert tips to help us maintain a well-functioning immune system.
Dr Carrie Ruxton’s 5 tips for fighting inflammunity
Drink a daily glass of 100% fruit juice, for example a glass of pure orange juice. You can even use it to create overnight oats for a quick breakfast.
Don’t just aim for 5-a-day but boost this to 8-a-day and include all the colours of the rainbow to maximise the range of anti-inflammatory plant polyphenols, like hesperidin, narirutin, anthocyanins and kaempferol. Both juices and whole fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen, tinned, and dried options can contribute to your eight daily portions.
Keep stress to a minimum by taking time out from work, family, and screens to relax, and grab some thinking space. Studies show that bouts of stress release the inflammatory marker, cortisol, which can even be detected within minutes in saliva after a stressful experience.
Avoid pro-inflammatory habits like smoking, drinking excess alcohol and diets high in saturated fats and ultra-processed carbs. Choosing natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, and wholegrains is a great start.
Stick to a healthy body weight, particularly weight around the middle, by taking regular exercise and choosing a balanced diet and calorie intake. Excess body fat is pro-inflammatory and seriously increases the risk of inflammunity, affecting your ability to fight off infections.