Scientists identify allergy-inducing properties of common dietary fibre in supplements

A common dietary fibre promotes allergy-like immune responses in preclinical studies

A type of dietary fibre called inulin, commonly used in health supplements and known to have certain anti-inflammatory properties, can also promote an allergy-related type of inflammation in the lung and gut, and other parts of the body, according to a preclinical study from researchers in the Friedman Center for Nutrition and Inflammation and Jill Roberts Institute for Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Weill Cornell Medicine and in the Boyce Thompson Institute on Cornell’s Ithaca campus in the US.

The study, published in Nature, found that dietary inulin fibre alters the metabolism of certain gut bacteria, which in turn triggers what scientists call type 2 inflammation in the gut and lungs. This type of inflammation is thought to have evolved in mammals chiefly to defend against parasitic worm (helminth) infections, and is also part of normal wound-healing, although its inappropriate activation underlies allergies, asthma and other inflammatory diseases.

“There’s a lot to think about here, but, in general, these findings broaden our understanding of the relationship between diet, immunity, and the normally beneficial microorganisms that constitute our microbiota and colonise our bodies,” said study co-senior author Dr David Artis, Director of the Friedman Center for Nutrition and Inflammation and the Michael Kors Professor of Immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The researchers now plan to use their multi-disciplinary, multi-platform approach to study systematically the immune effects of the different types of dietary fibre as well as a range of other dietary supplements in different states of health and disease.

Image credit- shutterstock

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