Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge
Free radicals are unstable compounds formed in the body during metabolism and from exposure to environmental sources such as pollution and cigarette smoke. Free radicals are necessary for energy metabolism and immune function, but when an excessive number of free radicals are formed, they can attack healthy cells, especially their membrane lipids and proteins. This, in turn, is thought to affect a number of body processes, including optimal functioning of the immune system. Beta-carotene is an important antioxidant nutrient that protects healthy cells from oxidative and free radical damage. Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of beta-carotene for normal immune function. The immune benefits of beta-carotene are due to its vitamin A precursor role and its antioxidant functions. Zinc is an essential trace element involved in most major metabolic pathways. General signs of human zinc deficiency indicate that zinc has important functions in maintaining immune function, reproduction, healthy skin, and growth. Numerous studies support the fundamental role of zinc in normal immune response in humans. Immune cells must be able to rapidly divide in order to respond to daily challenges. Like all rapidly dividing cells, immune cells depend on adequate amounts of dietary zinc. Blueberries contain a powerful class of antioxidants known as proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins are among the most powerful natural free-radical scavengers yet discovered. As such, proanthocyanidins have their own unique place in the body’s overall protection against harmful free radical damage. Healthy immune function can also be maintained by supporting a well balanced production of cytokines. Studies using elderberry have indicated that it may have effective immuno-protective abilities, including supporting a balanced production of cytokines. Honeysuckle has also been reported for its immuno-protective properties.