The “battle” of the immune system against diseases, bacteria and virus attacks starts at the table. The importance of proper nutrition and a balanced diet, was discussed by Prof. Alberto Mantovani, Scientific Director of Humanitas, and Prof. Silvio Danese, head of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, during a broadcast of Discovery Channel which aired on Italian TV channel RAI 1.


immune system nutrition

What foods strengthen the immune system?

“Broccoli is among the most important – said prof. Mantovani – in fact it contains a substance, which is a derivative of tryptophan. Tryptophan activates a genetic program in a class of lymphocytes, and these cells are placed as a barrier between the intestine and the outside world ready to be activated against any threats”.


Why are vegetables generally good?

In order for our immune system to “run” smoothly, like a car, it needs brakes and accelerators, which come from our diet, explained Professor. Mantovani. Accelerators are constantly active, leading to autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions. In the presence of cancer, the “brakes” become “stiff” and even some of the cells that should protect us are “corrupt” and help cancer. A proper diet, in which vegetables can not be missed helps us find a balance between accelerating and braking.


Is it true that to preserve out immune system we must control how much we eat?

My recommendation in this regard can be summed up in the formula “0 – 5 – 30”: zero smoking, five times a day fruit and vegetables and then weight control, or thirty minutes a day of moderate exercise.

Another factor in the complex relationship between the diet and the immune system is the intestinal flora.


Prof. Danese, how is the intestinal flora affected?

“The power supply influences the quality of the intestinal flora. Often it is said “we are what we eat”, and in fact there are studies showing that the flora of people living in Africa – with diets rich in fruits and vegetables compared to Western populations, who have diets rich in fat, is less susceptible to inflammation associated with pathologies such as obesity or chronic intestinal inflammatory diseases”.