Immunomodulatory functional foods and their molecular mechanisms

Jae Hwan Kim, Da Hyun Kim, Seongin Jo, Min Je Cho, Ye Ryeong Cho, Yong Joon Lee, Sanguine Byun

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The immune system comprises a complex group of processes that provide defense against diverse pathogens. These defenses can be divided into innate and adaptive immunity, in which specific immune components converge to limit infections. In addition to genetic factors, aging, lifestyle, and environmental factors can influence immune function, potentially affecting the susceptibility of the host to disease-causing agents. Chemical compounds in certain foods have been shown to regulate signal transduction and cell phenotypes, ultimately impacting pathophysiology. Research has shown that the consumption of specific functional foods can stimulate the activity of immune cells, providing protection against cancer, viruses, and bacteria. Here, we review a number of functional foods reported to strengthen immunity, including ginseng, mushrooms, chlorella, and probiotics (Lactobacillus plantarum). We also discuss the molecular mechanisms involved in regulating the activity of various types of immune cells. Identifying immune-enhancing functional foods and understanding their mechanisms of action will support new approaches to maintain proper health and combat immunological diseases.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental and Molecular Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korean government (MSIP) (NRF-2020R1A2C1010703). This research was also supported in part by the Brain Korea 21 (BK21) program.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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