A preliminary study shows that natural chemicals from blackcurrants may help breathing in some types of asthma. Researchers from the New Zealand company Plant & Food Research found a compound from a New Zealand blackcurrant may reduce lung inflammation with a multi-action assault in allergy-induced asthma. The findings have been published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

The researchers identified that the component, epigallocatechin, in blackcurrants reduced inflammation in lung tissue. Epigallocatechin is a known antioxidant and a major component of proanthocyanidins found in blackcurrants.

In the study, cells from lung tissue were used to test the effects on the immune system of a proanthocyanidin rich extract, from blackcurrant cultivars grown in New Zealand. The findings show that epigallocatechin, from blackcurrants, works in conjunction with other natural immune responses that occur at the same time to reduce inflammation. These actions are distinct from the inflammation-reducing activity of another group of compounds, anthocyanins, which are also found in blackcurrants.

“To find natural compounds that potentially reduce lung inflammation and complement the body’s own immune response is an exciting breakthrough,” said Roger Hurst, MD, lead researcher on the study. “Should we discover more about how this works we may eventually develop foods containing these compounds that could provide more natural alternatives to assist conventional drug treatments for asthma and even other allergic reactions.”

Fruit consumption has been shown to reduce symptoms in allergy-induced asthma. This is the first study to look at the mechanism by which this may occur.