Blueberries and Red Grapes play a significant role in increasing immune function.

Researchers at Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University discovered that the resveratrol found in red grapes and a compound called pterostilbene from blueberries significantly enhanced immune function by raising the expression of the human cethelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP Gene).

Their findings were published in the journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. The compounds, called stilbenoids, worked in conjunction with vitamin D and illustrated the relevance of certain foods in a holistic lifestyle to improve the immune response.

Stilbenoids are compounds produced by plants to fight infections, and in human biology appear to affect some of the signaling pathways that allow vitamin D to do its job, researchers said. It appears that combining these compounds with vitamin D has considerably more biological impact than any of them would separately and the influence of vitamin D on the CAMP gene has already been established by prior research.

“Out of a study of hundreds of compounds, just these two popped right out,” said Adrian Gombart, an LPI principal investigator and associate professor in the OSU College of Science. “Their synergy with vitamin D to increase CAMP gene expression was significant and intriguing. It’s a pretty interesting interaction.”

The application and use of Resveratrol has been the subject of dozens of studies to examine the range of possible benefits, from improving cardiovascular health to fighting cancer and reducing inflammation. This research is the first to show a clear synergy with vitamin D that increased CAMP expression by several times, scientists said.

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, or the body’s first line of defense and ability to combat bacterial infection. The innate immune response is especially important as many antibiotics increasingly lose their effectiveness.

A strong link has been established between adequate vitamin D levels and the function of the CAMP gene, and the new research suggests that certain other compounds may play a role as well.

Further research in the nutritional aspects of immune function could lead to a better understanding of how diet and nutrition affect immune function, and possibly lead to the development of therapeutically useful natural compounds that could boost the innate immune response.


Chunxiao Guo, Brian Sinnott, Brenda Niu, Malcolm B. Lowry, Mary L. Fantacone, Adrian F. Gombart. Synergistic induction of human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide gene expression by vitamin D and stilbenoids. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201300266

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