Monitoring immune modulation by nutrition in the general population: identifying and substantiating effects on human health

Ruud Albers*, Raphaelle Bourdet-Sicard, Deborah Braun, Philip C. Calder, Udo Herz, Claude Lambert, Irene Lenoir-Wijnkoop, Agnes Meheust, Arthur Ouwehand, Phoukham Phothirath, Tomoyuki Sako, Seppo Salminen, Andre Siemensma, Henk van Loveren, Ulrich Sack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Optimal functioning of the immune system is crucial to human health, and nutrition is one of the major exogenous factors modulating different aspects of immune function. Currently, no single marker is available to predict the effect of a dietary intervention on different aspects of immune function. To provide further guidance on the assessment and interpretation of the modulation of immune functions due to nutrition in the general population, International Life Sciences Institute Europe commissioned a group of experts from academia, government and the food industry to prepare a guidance document. A draft of this paper was refined at a workshop involving additional experts. First, the expert group defined criteria to evaluate the usefulness of immune function markers. Over seventy-five markers were scored within the context of three distinct immune system functions: defence against pathogens; avoidance or mitigation of allergy; control of low-grade (metabolic) inflammation. The most useful markers were subsequently classified depending on whether they by themselves signify clinical relevance and/or involvement of immune function. Next, five theoretical scenarios were drafted describing potential changes in the values of markers compared with a relevant reference range. Finally, all elements were combined, providing a framework to aid the design and interpretation of studies assessing the effects of nutrition on immune function. This stepwise approach offers a clear rationale for selecting markers for future trials and provides a framework for the interpretation of outcomes. A similar stepwise approach may also be useful to rationalise the selection and interpretation of markers for other physiological processes critical to the maintenance of health and well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S1-S30
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Biomarkers
  • Immune function
  • Validation
  • Guidance
  • Criteria


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