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Imagine: a deadly super-flu suddenly rears its head. There’s no vaccine available and the world population is decimated like in the old days. A kind of Spanish Flu. It’s not impossible that all those health freaks who take goji, the controversial super-food, are more likely to survive a nightmare epidemic than the sensible types who think goji berries are just a fashion fad.

Imagine: a deadly super-flu suddenly rears its head. There’s no vaccine available and the world population is decimated like in the old days. A kind of Spanish Flu. It’s not impossible that all those health freaks who take goji, the controversial super-food, are more likely to survive a nightmare epidemic than the sensible types who think goji berries are just a fashion fad.

Indeed, we’re painting a dramatic scenario. But it’s possible to back it up with science. At least, if you’re prepared to use [ahem] animal studies sponsored by a manufacturer of goji products.

The firm is Nestlé, the manufacturer of Lacto-Wolfberry. Lacto-Wolfberry is a dairy drink consisting of fifty percent goji berry juice. Goji berries are the best nutritional source of zeaxanthin [structural formula below]. This compound stimulates the immune system. According to research done by Nestlé, the body absorbs the carotenoid zeaxanthin that’s found in goji better if you consume the berries in the form of Lacto-Wolfberry.

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Goji berries also contain polysaccharides, which also bolster the immune system.

The researchers wanted to know whether goji berries really offer protection against viruses. So they did an experiment with mice, first giving them food containing 5 percent Lacto-Wolfberry [LWB] for a month.

If the mice had been humans they would have eating about 20-30 g goji berries daily. What the equivalent amount would be of dried berries or powder we don’t know for sure.

Mice in a control group were given standard food, with no additions.

After a month the researchers infected their lab animals with a H1N1 influenza virus, and studied the effects this had during the following 9 days. The researchers counted the number of damaged cells in the mice’s lungs, and calculated a Pathology score based on this. The score was lower in the animals that had been given goji berries.

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Goji berry supplementation resulted in a higher concentration of interferon-gamma and interleukine-2 in the mice’s blood after they’d been infected with the virus. The more of these molecules there are in your blood, the harder your immune cells are fighting the infection.

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When viruses damage cells, the cells die and the body has to clear them up. The cells that do this work react to inflammatory proteins such as TNF-alpha and Interleukin-6. The researchers found lower quantities of TNF-alpha and Interleukin-6 in the lungs of the mice that had been given goji berries.

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“Dietary supplementation with Lacto-Wolfberry has a beneficial effect in reducing the severity of influenza infection”, the researchers summarise their findings. “Future studies will further determine the underlying mechanisms of Lacto-Wolfberry’s effects on viral infection and immune functions as well as its potential application in humans.”

Dietary supplementation with lacto-wolfberry enhances the immune response and reduces pathogenesis to influenza infection in mice.

Abstract

Despite the availability of vaccines, influenza is a considerable public health problem, which emphasizes the need for development of additional strategies to enhance host defense against influenza. Wolfberry, or goji berry, long used as a medicinal food in China, has recently been shown to improve immune response in mice. Because immune response plays a key role in the body’s defense against pathogens, we hypothesized that wolfberry may increase host resistance to influenza infection by enhancing immune response. To test this hypothesis, we fed adult mice (4 mo old) a milk-based preparation of wolfberry called Lacto-Wolfberry (LWB) for 4 wk and then infected them with influenza A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (H1N1) while continuing the same experimental diets. Viral titer, lung pathology, and immune response were determined at different time points postinfection. LWB supplementation prevented infection-induced weight loss and reduced lung pathology on days 6 and 9 postinfection (P < 0.05). LWB-fed mice showed overall, significantly higher concanavalin A-induced IL-2 production (P < 0.05). Furthermore, we found positive correlations between weight loss and lung viral titer, pathology score, TNF?, and IL-6 production as well as negative correlations with T cell proliferation and IL-2 production (all P ? 0.05). These results indicate that LWB supplementation can attenuate symptoms and pathology of influenza infection by decreasing inflammatory cytokines in lungs while enhancing systemic T cell-mediated function as measured by their ability to produce IL-2.

PMID: 22739381 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22739381

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