Boysenberries may help asthmatics

New research suggests regular boysenberry consumption may improve lung function by reducing symptoms associated with inflammation of the airways, which can cause conditions such as asthma.

Globally it is estimated 150 million people are affected by asthma, with children making up about 10 per cent of sufferers. In New Zealand, one of every nine adults and every seven children are prescribed asthma medication.

Previous studies have found lung function can be improved by consuming fruits that contain high levels of antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols, although the underlying mechanisms behind this are largely unknown.

Through their investigations with berryfruits, scientists at Plant & Food Research, working in collaboration with the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, have made new discoveries on the role polyphenols play in reducing the effects of asthma and chronic airway inflammation.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-funded research examined two key agents associated with regulating lung inflammation: arginase, closely linked with decreased inflammation in asthma; and matrix metalloproteinase-9, associated with improved tissue remodelling.

“We’ve seen some really exciting results from this recent study,” says Plant & Food research science group leader Dr Roger Hurst. “Our results suggest boysenberry consumption may help protect the lungs and associated airways from the chronic build-up of damaged and scar tissue.

“These agents appear to support an environment capable of reducing scar tissue deposits on the lungs.”

The research also observed structural improvements in the lungs through the activation of specific immune cell types, which are known to assist tissue repair and retention of normal lung function.

These findings provide the first evidence that boysenberry consumption could be used to support the body’s natural defences and potentially reduce negative physical effects on the lungs caused by asthma and other chronic pulmonary conditions.

This research has been published in ‘American Journal of Physiology: Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology’, a top-10 ranked journal on respiratory systems.


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