Blackcurrent Compound May Reduce Asthma Symptoms
Why does eating fruit sometimes reduce symptoms of allergy-induced asthma? Scientists in New Zealand believe they have found an answer in a blackcurrent compound called epigallocatechin.
Epigallocatechin is a type of catechin (a flavonoid), an antioxidant found most notably in green tea but in other plants as well. Antioxidants are molecules that protect other molecules called free radicals from damaging cells, a process that is associated with a wide range of conditions ranging from cancer to asthma and heart disease.
Researchers in New Zealand found that epigallocatechin, a major component of proanthocyanidins (also a flavonoid) in blackcurrents, may reduce inflammation in lung tissue by boosting the lung tissue’s natural defense mechanisms. To arrive at this finding, a team led by Dr. Roger Hurst, of Plant & Food Research, used cells from lung tissue to test the impact on the immune system of an extract from a blackcurrent variety grown in New Zealand.
The scientists found that the epigallocatechins from the blackcurrents worked with other natural immune responses to reduce inflammation. The activity of the epigallocatechins was separate from the inflammation-reducing activity of anthocyanins, another plant compound found in fruit, especially berries. The observation that some plant compounds believed to support human health via their antioxidant properties are also providing other benefits was of particular interest to the investigators.
“To find natural compounds that potentially reduce lung inflammation and complement the body’s own immune response is an exciting breakthrough,” said Dr. Hurst. He noted that their discovery could eventually lead to the development of foods that contain these compounds, which could provide consumers with “natural alternatives to assist conventional drug treatments for asthma and even other allergic reactions.”
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology states that approximately 34.1 million Americans receive a diagnosis of asthma during their lifetime, and an estimated 300 million people around the world suffer with the disease. About 70 percent of asthmatics also have allergies.
Asthma is a chronic disease for which there is no cure. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute notes that the goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease and reduce its symptoms, which include coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing. A blackcurrent compound could someday be an alternative treatment for the millions of people who suffer with this respiratory disease.
American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
Plant & Food Research