M.A. Skinner


Fruits are excellent health foods and ingredients for functional foods. Plant & Food Research is developing new fresh and processed foods to promote gut health and immunity and protect from oxidative stress. The research involves testing using cell-based assays and animal models and validating health benefits in human trials. Using ZESPRI® GOLD Kiwifruit as an example, extracts stimulated human innate and adaptive immunity in vitro and a puree, but not a juice, enhanced a weak gut-associated immune response in mice. To validate an associated health benefit, a human trial determined the effects of gold kiwifruit consumption on symptoms of colds and influenza in older adults (≥ 65 years). Gold kiwifruit consumption significantly reduced head congestion and sore throat symptoms as well as plasma lipid peroxidation and significantly increased plasma vitamin C, α-tocopherol and lutein/zeaxanthin concentrations, and red cell folate concentrations. In a subsequent trial, regular consumption of gold kiwifruit by pre-school children (2-5 years) resulted in an overall reduction in the incidence of cold and influenza-like illnesses as well as a reduction in their symptoms. The results suggest that gold kiwifruit can modulate the immune system in a positive way and that consumption can improve health by reducing symptoms and incidences of colds and influenza, in groups whose immune status may result in a greater risk of contracting these types of infections.