Grimm, H. and Calder, P.C.
British Journal of Nutrition, 87, (Supplement s1), . (doi:10.1079/BJN2001450).
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It has been recognised for many years that states of nutrient deficiency are associated with an impaired immune response and with increased susceptibility to infectious disease. In turn, infection can affect the status of several nutrients, thus setting up a vicious cycle of under nutrition, compromised immune function and infection. Thus, the focus of much of the research into nutrition, infection and immunity has related to identifying the effects of nutrient deficiencies upon components of the immune response (often using animal models) and, importantly, upon attempts to reduce the occurrence and severity of infectious diseases (often in human settings). Although it is often considered that the problems of under nutrition relate mainly to the developing world, they exist in developed countries especially amongst the elderly, individuals with eating disorders, alcoholics, patients with certain diseases and premature and small-for-gestational age babies. Thus, immunological problems in these groups probably relate, at least in part, to nutrient status. In addition, many diseases which exist amongst the apparently well nourished have a strong immunological component and it is now recognised that at least some of these diseases relate to diet and that their course may be altered by specific changes in nutrient supply. Examples of these diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and atopic diseases. Furthermore, it is now recognised that atherosclerosis, a disease strongly influenced by diet, has an immunological component. Thus, understanding the interaction between nutrition and immune function is fundamental to understanding the development of a multitude of communicable and non-communicable diseases and will offer preventative and therapeutic opportunities to control the incidence and severity of those diseases. The potential to modulate the immune system by specific nutrient interventions has been termed ‘immunonutrition’.
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