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USDA researchers are examining the effects of dietary fiber on the intestinal microbiome and immune function in order to improve health and prevent diseases linked to intestinal and systemic immune activation and inflammation.
The mission of the Immunity and Disease Prevention Research Unit is to determine how diet and individual dietary factors affect immune function to maintain health. Research focuses on how diet can optimize protective innate and adaptive immune responses and minimize potentially damaging inflammation that may be triggered by unhealthy dietary patterns or other environmental factors. The roles of dietary patterns, specific nutrients (including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin D) and diet-derived phytochemicals (including resveratrol and flavonoids) are examined using human observational and intervention studies and appropriate animal models. The role of dietary patterns is also being investigated with a goal of identifying the impact of diet on intestinal microbial communities and, in turn, the effect of these communities on immune function. A goal of this research is to identify mechanisms by which diet affects the immune system in order to improve the scientific basis for dietary recommendations to optimize health.