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Fruits & Vegetables Boost Immunity

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CR appears to reduce our susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections (e.g. colds and flu) - we've known this for quite some time based on personal anecdotes, backed up by our recent poll on the topic, and confirmed a study of anorexics by Luigi Fontana discussed in this post. But the immunity story for CR practitioners may not be quite so cut and dried. As discussed in this post, CR may make it harder for us to fight off infections once we do get sick. Plus, you've got to die of something (at least for the foreseeable future :-) ), and flu/pneumonia are the 3rd leading killer of centenarians.


So it was heartening to see today's video by Dr. Greger (embedded below) which reports on the strong evidence that eating lots of fruits and vegetables, which virtually all of us do, helps to boost the immune system. Perhaps the most interesting sound-bite from the video comes from this study [1], which found that obesity, low physical activity, and low fruit/vegetable consumption were all associated with higher rates of hospitalizations for acute upper respiratory infections. But low fruits/veggies intake edged out the other two as the most predictive lifestyle factor for increased URI risk.


So eat your fruits and veggies!






[1] Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2013 Sep;7(5):718-28. doi: 10.1111/irv.12019.

Epub 2012 Nov 8.
Relationship between community prevalence of obesity and associated behavioral
factors and community rates of influenza-related hospitalizations in the United
Charland KM(1), Buckeridge DL, Hoen AG, Berry JG, Elixhauser A, Melton F,
Brownstein JS.
Author information: 
(1)Children's Hospital Informatics Program, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston,
MA, USA. katia.charland@mcgill.ca
BACKGROUND: Findings from studies examining the association between obesity and
acute respiratory infection are inconsistent. Few studies have assessed the
relationship between obesity-related behavioral factors, such as diet and
exercise, and risk of acute respiratory infection.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether community prevalence of obesity, low
fruit/vegetable consumption, and physical inactivity are associated with
influenza-related hospitalization rates.
METHODS: Using data from 274 US counties, from 2002 to 2008, we regressed county 
influenza-related hospitalization rates on county prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥
30), low fruit/vegetable consumption (<5 servings/day), and physical inactivity
(<30 minutes/month recreational exercise), while adjusting for community-level
confounders such as insurance coverage and the number of primary care physicians 
per 100,000 population.
RESULTS: A 5% increase in obesity prevalence was associated with a 12% increase
in influenza-related hospitalization rates [adjusted rate ratio (ARR) 1.12, 95%
confidence interval (CI) 1.07, 1.17]. Similarly, a 5% increase in the prevalence 
of low fruit/vegetable consumption and physical inactivity was associated with an
increase of 12% (ARR 1.12, 95% CI 1.08, 1.17) and 11% (ARR 1.11, 95% CI 1.07,
1.16), respectively. When all three variables were included in the same model, a 
5% increase in prevalence of obesity, low fruit/vegetable consumption, and
physical inactivity was associated with 6%, 8%, and 7% increases in
influenza-related hospitalization rates, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: Communities with a greater prevalence of obesity were more likely to
have high influenza-related hospitalization rates. Similarly, less physically
active populations, with lower fruit/vegetable consumption, tended to have higher
influenza-related hospitalization rates, even after accounting for obesity.
© 2012 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
PMID: 23136926



Dr. Greger references on fruits/veggies & immunity


B Watzi, A Bub, K Briviba, G Rechkemmer. Supplementation of a low-carotenoid diet with tomato or carrot juice modulates immune functions in healthy men. Ann Nutr Metab. 2003;47(6):255-61.

L Li, M M Werler. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of upper respiratory tract infection in pregnant women. Public Health Nutr. 2010 Feb;13(2):276-82.

NA. The blood film in meningococcal disease. Med J Aust. 1983 May 28;1(11):502.

H M Averill, J E Averill. The effect of daily apple consumption on dental caries experience, oral hygiene status and upper respiratory infections. N Y State Dent J. 1968 Aug-Sep;34(7):403-9.

K M Charland, D L Buckeridge, A G Hoen, J G Berry, A Elixhauser, F Melton, J S Brownstein. Relationship between community prevalence of obesity and associated behavioral factors and community rates of influenza-related hospitalizations in the United States. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2013 Sep;7(5):718-28.

B Watzi, A Bub, B R Brandstetter, G Rechkemmer. Modulation of human T-lymphocyte functions by the consumption of carotenoid-rich vegetables. Br J Nutr. 1999 Nov;82(5):383-9.

N Acs, F Banhidy, E Horvath-Puho, A E Czeizel. Population-based case-control study of the common cold during pregnancy and congenital abnormalities. Eur J Epidemiol. 2006;21(1):65-75.

K Kurppa, P C Holmberg, E Kuosma, T Aro, L Saxen. Anencephaly and maternal common cold. Teratology. 1991 Jul;44(1):51-5.

J Zhang, W W Cai. Association of the common cold in the first trimester of pregnancy with birth defects. Pediatrics. 1993 Oct;92(4):559-63.

M Veldhoen, V Bruchlacher-Waldert. Dietary influences on intestinal immunity. Nat Rev Immunol. 2012 Oct;12(10):696-708.


A Gibson, J D Edgar, C E Neville, S E Gilchrist, M C McKinley, C C Patterson, I S Young, J V Woodside. Effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on immune function in older people: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1429-36.

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Wow! Shocking study. Who would have ever guessed that eating fruits and vegs is "healthy"? Thank heavens for this careful work -- or else I might have just kept hammering donuts and whiskey like all the cool kids.


Meanwhile, when will we solve aging problems? Sorry for my sarcasm, I guess I'm just another impatient jerk. :-(

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Thanks, Dean!


Shtira, answer: soon, I hope! Being checked for thyroid lump tomorrow, mysterious gut mass next week, have to have hernia surgery very soon, still have unsolved pancytopenia, still can't sleep.... All of this at least partly aging related. Enough is enough!



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Enough is enough!


My frustration I'm sure encompasses your frustration, too. That is, we already know eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil is obviously less unhealthy than crappy alternatives. Why more wasted money on another f&v study? We already know smoking is unhealthy, processed food is unhealthy, poisoned hormonal meat is unhealthy, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, not wearing seatbelts, diving into aqua-absent cement pools, dangling by a rope from an oak by your neck is unhealthy, talking to neo-con republicans is unhealthy -- why more studies into the obvious? Aren't more studies that investigate the obvious a waste of time and money?


My whole life -- decades -- we've been told over and again that progress is being made on solving the complicated horrors of aging to death. Yet still more profundity about fruits and vegetables. Wow. So impressed. WTF? Isn't anyone enraged watching your vegetarian grandmother age to death while simultaneously being told that fruits and vegetables are awesome?


I guess I'm encouraged by people taking risks like Liz Parrish because she seems outraged at the idiocy. Like "Reason" at FightAging: outraged. When will we DO SOMETHING important? Stop repeating the tease.

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