-- BRM* food material derived from dietary fiber (hemicellulose) --

                                      By Hiroaki Maeda,
                         Doctor of Agriculture and General Manager,
                              Origin Biochemical Laboratory Inc.,

                             * BRM= biological response modifier

When I was studying food nutrition, food was evaluated only for its nutritional elements and taste. The third function of food, which today has become widely known, was not taken into account. The only relationship between food and immunity was seen in terms of allergy, and the only focus in research was on eliminating allergens from food. Today it is becoming a common idea that immunity can be enhanced through eating, but neither consumers nor medical experts had this idea back in the 1970s when I became involved in producing functional food.

The spread of the concept of immunity enhancement through food ingredients matches my history in BRM food development and educating the market about them.

I would like to take this opportunity to describe my 30 years of experience in developing BRM food, and building on this experience, the development story and key features of Oryzalose, which is the latest material for BRM food.

1. Food Ingredient and Immune Response
When a foreign substance enters the living body, the body recognizes it as an antigen and creates an antibody that reacts specifically to the antigen to protect against any disorder the foreign substance may cause. This is called "immunity" and it plays a critical role in the body's biological defense. However, at times there may be impairment including antigen reaction or sudden symptoms of shock, and the degree of impairment can be strong. When the reaction is extreme it is called "allergy". Since food is a foreign substance to the body it naturally becomes an antigen. Conventionally, immune response to food had only been discussed in the area of allergic reaction, and most work was focused on applying processes to eliminate allergens from food ingredients.

Food ingredients that become antigens are a negative factor in terms of allergy. But when you adopt a slightly different viewpoint and consider them as stimulation to the immune system, some ingredients - especially those involved in Type IV allergy - may reinforce immunity when the reaction is mild. Given this perspective, some interesting reactions can be found by observing food ingredient mechanisms on immune system cells. For instance casein, which is a milk protein, and LPC (lyso-phosphatidylcholine) which is a type of phosphatide, induce interferon, while fruits such as apple and kiwi, and vegetables including spinach, onion and carrot promote TNF production and neutrophil concentration. We can probably claim that we are protected from infections and malignant tumors because of the daily foods we ingest.

If there were an immunity enhancement food that had this type of effect, the food could be used widely to maintain and improve health as well as to prevent and treat diseases.

There are several types of ingredients that become material for immunity enhancement food. Some are overtly in food and active from the beginning, while others are certain particles that emerge in the process of digestion and decomposition and come to possess the function even if the substance before decomposition was inactive, and some have the potential of developing the function once it goes through certain processing. Most processed foods are produced by heating, fermenting, or treating with enzyme. By using such processing technology I felt it was possible to develop immunity enhancing food with a stable demonstration of effectiveness.

2. Immunity Enhancement Activity of Indigestible Polysaccharide (Dietary Fiber)
There are several kinds of polysaccharide in food. Many indigestible polysaccharides, or dietary fibers, are reported to have immunity enhancement or BRM function. These results are mostly found in "in vitro" tests but there are some cases where effectiveness is found from oral administration. In recent years gut mucosa is starting to be acknowledged for its immune organ function, and along with this there is research being done on enhancing immunity by stimulating the intestinal canal with the indigestible polysaccharide in food. Indigestible polysaccharide taken as food is believed to either pass through the intestinal tract or become partially absorbed to impact the immune system.

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