This is the first time that a group of antioxidants known as flavonoids have been found to boost the immune system in studies on living animals, as opposed to test-tube studies. The results are published online in the British Ecological Society’s Functional Ecology.
Researchers from the University of Freiburg and the Max Plank Institute for Ornithology in Germany offered a group of blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla a choice of two foods. The foods were identical in all respects except for the amount of flavonoids they contained, and the researchers found that the blackcaps actively selected the food with added flavonoids.
As well as the food selection experiment, the study also looked at whether or not the flavonoids had an impact on the birds’ health. They found that, compared with birds not fed the antioxidants, blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla that ate modest amounts of flavonoids for four weeks had stronger immune systems.
According to the lead author of the study, Carlo Catoni of the University of Freiburg: “We fed the birds an amount of flavonoids that they would obtain by eating 1-2 blackberries, bilberries or elderberries a day. We used this modest intake of flavonoids because high quantities are only available during the limited time of maximum berry abundance. Our study shows for the first time that flavonoids are beneficial compounds that can boost the immune system in a living organism. We also found that wild birds actively select food containing flavonoids. Our results have important implications for the study of ecology and immunity in birds, and for the evolution of the relationship between plants and the birds and animals they rely on to disperse their seeds.”
In this study, the birds were able to tell which food had added flavonoids because – as would be the case in nature – flavonoids made the food a darker colour. However, the authors believe that the blackcaps know that the darker berries contain more flavonoids, and this is why they prefer them. “Studies by other ecologists and our own group have shown that blackcaps do not show a colour preference if food is nutritionally identical, so we are confident that our results are due to a learned selection for flavonoid content and not due to innate selection of darker food per se,” Catoni says.
Flavonoids – found in very high concentrations in fruits and vegetables – are among the commonest antioxidants in nature. Health benefits of dietary antioxidants have been the focus of much research during the past decade: during the past few years, more than 30,000 studies have been published on the health effects of flavonoid consumption, but only a handful of these involved living organisms. Although the mechanisms are not fully understood, scientists think that antioxidants help protect cells from damage by free radicals.
The blackcap Sylvia atricapilla is a European migratory species and eats fruit and insects. Because of its delightful fluting song, the blackcap Sylvia atricapilla has been dubbed the 'northern nightingale'. Primarily a summer visitor to the UK, birds from Germany and north-east Europe are increasingly spending the winter in the UK.
Becky Allen | alfa
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy