Defense: Acid and sharp stimulate the immune system

Antibacterial effects begin in the mouth

As is well known, our saliva plays an elementary role in food intake. It is also the first anti-infiltration barrier. Therefore, various antimicrobial substances are contained in the saliva. The composition of saliva is influenced by age, state of health, but also by what someone eats and drinks. However, little is known about the effects of individual food ingredients.

A team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now found out in a human study that citric acid and gingery 6-gingerol from ginger stimulate the molecular defenses in human saliva. The influence on the saliva composition of:

1. citric acid (acidic),
2. aspartame (sweet),
3. Iso-alpha acids (bitter),
4. sodium glutamate (umami),
5. table salt (salty),
6. Gingerol (spicy) as well
7. the substances contained in the Szechuan pepper hydroxy-alpha-sanshool (tingling) and hydroxy-beta-sanshool (anesthetic)

The scientists were able to demonstrate that all the substances investigated "modulate" the protein composition of the saliva to a greater or lesser extent. The changes caused by citric acid caused the lysozyme level in the saliva to increase up to ten times. Lysozyme is an enzyme that destroys the cell walls of bacteria. 6-Gingerol increased the activity of an enzyme, which tripled the amount of hypothiocyanate, which has an antimicrobial and fungicidal effect, in the saliva.

"Our findings show that flavoring substances already have biological effects in the mouth that go far beyond their known sensory properties," says Professor Thomas Hofmann from TUM. These findings could be a good way to expand your own recipe repertoire - for example through dishes from Chinese cuisine, in which both lemons and ginger play a major role. RĂ¼diger Lobitz, resp

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