In a scientific analysis of 446 compounds regarding the ability to boost the innate immune system, two were discovered which stood out, the resveratrol present in red grapes and a compound known as pterostilbene in blueberries.
Both resveratrol and pterostilbene, which are known as stilbenoids, worked synergetically with vitamin D and had a considerable effect in elevating the expression of the CAMP gene (human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide), which plays a part in immune function.
The findings were made in laboratory cell cultures and do not prove that similar results would occur as a result of dietary intake, the scientists said, but do add more interest to the potential of some foods to improve the immune response.
Resveratrol continues to be the topic of many studies for a variety of possible health benefits, from fighting cancer to improving cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation. This study shows a clear synergy with vitamin D which increased CAMP expression by a number of times.
The CAMP gene itself is also the subject of much study, as it has been shown to play a key role in the “innate” immune system, the body’s ability to fight bacterial infection and the 1st line of defense. The innate immune response is particularly important since most antibiotics progressively lose their effectiveness.
A strong link has been proven between function of the CAMP gene and adequate vitamin D levels, and this study indicates that certain other compounds could be involved as well.
The stilbenoids which fight infections are compounds made by plants, and appear to impact some of the signaling pathways that enable vitamin D to perform its job. It seems that combining these compounds together with vitamin D has significantly more impact than any of them would have separately.
Ongoing research could result in a better understanding of how nutrition affects immune function, and perhaps lead to developing therapeutically useful natural compounds which can boost the innate immune response.
In spite of the interest in compounds like pterostilbene and resveratrol, their bioavailability remains a question. Some applications which could evolve can be with topical use to improve barrier defense in infections or wounds.