According to a study published in the journal Immunity, a high fibre diet protects against influenza infection, boosting the immune system by activating T cells while preventing harmful, excessive immune responses in other parts of the body.
The investigation was conducted with mice who share a similar biological makeup to humans.
"The beneficial effects of dietary fibre and SCFAs on a variety of chronic inflammatory diseases, including asthma and allergies, have received substantial attention in recent years and have supported momentum toward their use in clinical studies," says senior study author Benjamin Marsland of Monash University.
"But we were concerned that these treatments might lead to a general dampening of immune responses and could increase susceptibility to infections."
In the research, scientists found that fibre supplements protected mice from the influenza infection.
This treatment resulted in the innate immune response typically associated with tissue damage being suppressed while the adaptive immune response that is responsible with eliminating pathogens was boosted.
"We typically find that a certain treatment turns our immune system either on or off," Marsland says. "What surprised us was that dietary fibre was selectively turning off part of our immune system, while turning on another, completely unrelated part of our immune system."
Twenty per cent of the world is infected with Influenza A each year.