Study: Plant-based supplement can prevent illness and skin disease in high risk population

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | AlexRaths
Getty | AlexRaths

Related tags Plant Vitamins Minerals

A nutrient dense plant-based supplement can reduce risk of illness and skin disease during acclimatisation to unfavourable weather conditions, according to a new randomised study of Russian students.

The climate of the Kaliningrad region of Russia has seasonal variations which have become substantial in recent decades and which are clinically unfavorable, as evidenced by an increased incidence of respiratory and skin diseases amongst incoming students. 

Functional products manufactured using cryogenic freezing technology allow for the production of super fine particles and the preservation of nutrients. The consumption of one gram of a cryopowder equals the consumption of 700–1000 g of fresh fruits or vegetables thanks to the removal of water.

The current randomised study, involving 100 first year Kaliningrad students, aimed to analyse the effectiveness of a pill supplement containing watermelon seeds (13%), oats (8%), rose hips (20%), spinach (8%), kelp (16%), parsley (15%), celery (10%) and egg white (10%) as a means of restoring the vitamin and mineral balance of the body and reducing morbidity during social adaptation and acclimatization.

The supplement chosen had a high vitamin (A, B1, B2, E, K1, C) and mineral content (Cu, Zn, Fe, Mn, Cr) and was designed to have a beneficial effect on the immune system.

The 34-week observation showed a 1.7-fold decrease in the incidence of respiratory illnesses and a 5.7-fold decrease in skin and subcutaneous tissue diseases. Acute respiratory infections were reduced 1.8-fold.There were no cases of community-acquired pneumonia in the treatment group, compared with 55.1‰ in the control group. The incidence of respiratory diseases was 3.3–10.6 times lower in the treatment group than in the control group in weeks 6–19. 

The authors say their findings testify to the prophylactic effect of functional food during social adaptation and acclimatisation of students.


The researchers studied two groups of first-year students who had come to Kaliningrad from other Russian regions. There were 50 students in each group - treatment and control.The daily diet of the two groups was balanced and the same (organised catering) but the treatment group also consumed 0.9g of the functional product (FP) twice a day (breakfast and dinner) for 15 days. This began 4–5 weeks after the arrival of students in the region.Blood samples were taken three times: before the intake of the functional food (day 21), on day 15 of the treatment (a day after the last intake, day 37) and on day 45 of the treatment (day 67).


At the end of the observation period, the level of copper in blood samples of the treatment group was 12.3% (p < 0.05) higher than that of the control group. There was an increase in the level of iron by 15.2% (p < 0.05 magnesium-by 6.3% (p < 0.05) and of phosphorus by 16.1% (p < 0.05).At the end of the observation, the level of iron was 20.8% above the initial (p < 0.05), of magnesium 34.2% (p < 0.05) and phosphorus 21.2% (p < 0.05).Whereas in the control group there was a 22.6% decrease in the level of magnesium (p < 0.05) and a 10.1% decrease in phosphorus (p < 0.05).The intake of the functional product contributed to an increase in the concentration of vitamins in blood. At the end of the observation, the content of vitamin A was above the initial level by 23.6% (p < 0.05), vitamin E by 16.9% (p < 0.05) and vitamin B2 by 28.3% (p < 0.05). Both groups showed a decrease in the content of vitamin B1, which was more significant in the control group—17.0% at the end of the observation. In the control group, pre-treatment vitamin E concentration was below the reference boundary in 40.0% of students. After 15 days, this percentage increased to 90.0% (φ = 3.567) and remained at this level until the end of the observation (80.0%, φ = 2.672).The FP also helped preserve testosterone level and prevent an increase in catabolic reactions. Moreover, it had a positive effect on both red blood cell hematopoiesis and white blood cell hematopoiesis. The stimulation of humoral immunity was evidenced by beta- and gamma-globulins, an active immune response, the level of IgM and IgG, antioxidant protection, reduction of peroxides and an increase in antioxidant activity of blood serum.

Mechanisms of action

Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant; it is involved in the completion of phase III and IV of phagocytosis and increases the synthesis of IgE and IgG. It stimulates the formation of T-killers in stem lymphocytic cells and Th2-helpers by increasing the production of IL-4 and IL-5. Vitamin A deficiency leads to a decrease in the level of B-lymphocytes and T-helpers. Vitamin A is involved in redox reactions and protein synthesis, promotes normal metabolism, improves the function of the cell and subcellular membranes and plays an important role in the formation of bones and teeth. It is essential for the growth of new cells and slows down aging. Vitamin E is involved in the production of cytokines. It suppresses the generation of antigen-specific and antigen-specific suppressors and thus stimulates cellular and humoral immune responses. It has a positive effect on the function of macrophages, and it is a strong antioxidant. Vitamin B2 is a cofactor in the activity of glutathione reductase in erythrocytes and leukocytes. Riboflavin is essential for the formation of red blood cells and antibodies, for cell respiration and growth. It facilitates the absorption of oxygen by the cells of the skin, nails and hair [54​].Copper increases the activity of macrophages. With a deficiency, there is a decrease in CD4 (T-helpers) and suppression of the functional activity of T- and B-lymphocytes. It participates in enzymatic catalysis (biocatalysis) and electron transfer and interacts with iron. Copper deficiency leads to leukopenia and neutropenia. Copper has a pronounced anti-inflammatory property and mitigates the manifestation of autoimmune diseases. Iron is part of transferrin, which is a lymphocyte activator. It has been established that low iron content in the body weakens the function of the immune system such that the saturation of tissues with granulocytes and macrophages decreases. Phagocytosis, the response of lymphocytes to stimulation with antigens, and the formation of antibodies are inhibited. A decrease in the level of iron in the body causes a sharp inhibition of the cytotoxic function of killer cells, and, along with this, the production of interferon by macrophages decreases [55​].Phosphorus has a crucial role in the acid-base equilibrium of blood. As part of many organic compounds, it is involved in metabolism. Phosphorous deficiency is associated with general and calcium metabolism disorders, rickets and osteomalacia. Magnesium participates in bone tissue and tooth development, neuromuscular conduction, and ATP-dependent and kinase reactions. It is a coenzyme in carbohydrate and protein metabolism and an essential component of intracellular fluid. Magnesium compounds activate enzymes, particularly those taking part in calcium and phosphoric metabolism [54​].

Source: Nutrients

Tarasov, A.V.; Rakhmanov, R.S.; Bogomolova, E.S.; Perminova, L.A.; Malakhova, Z.L. 

"The Role of Plant-Based Protein Functional Food in Preventing Acute Respiratory Disease: A Case Study"

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