Improving our Immune Resilience: Role of Phytonutrients

By Dr. Arianna Carughi
SAB Member, Nutritional Scientist

A strong, well-functioning immune system is the cornerstone of good health. Continuing on SAB member, Dr. Diane Clayton’s article Supporting your Immune System and SAB Director, John Miller’s article Human Immune Function: Facts and Realities for today, and always, I wanted to focus on the role of phytonutrients in improving our immune resilience. These powerful food components play an important role in our health, supporting and modulating immune function to keep us healthy and prevent specific diseases.

Phytonutrients are natural compounds that can play active roles in our body. “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant, phytonutrients thus are found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices and plant derived beverages like tea, coffee and wine. While not considered essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, they play specific roles in our body and are beneficial to human health.

Phytonutrients are responsible for much of the colour, aroma and flavour of fruits and vegetables. Each phytonutrient comes from a variety of different plant sources and also have different benefits and effects on our body. Many work synergistically with one another. Scientists estimate there are over 10,000 phytonutrients in plant foods and thousands of them have been identified. They have been classified according to their chemical structure into different groups. The most studied are the carotenoids; the large polyphenol family that includes the flavonoids and the sulfur-containing compounds, like allicin in garlic and sulforaphane in broccoli.

Exactly how they work in our body to protect health and prevent disease is yet to be understood and is an area of active research. Some studies point to their antioxidant and free-radical scavenging activity as possible mechanisms for protecting our cells from damage. Others to their ability to inhibit DNA and RNA synthesis and to their antibacterial and antiviral properties. Specifically looking at the immune system, some phytonutrients can regulate immune responses, increase the number of specific immune cells and enhance immune activities.

With so many phytonutrients and different activities it is impossible to isolate specific compounds to try to protect our health. Luckily most plant foods each contain dozens of phytonutrients. We should try to eat a wide variety in order to consume as many different phytonutrients as possible. Phytonutrients are often colour-specific, where food that have the same colour often have similar types of phytonutrients. For this reason, many leading health organisations such as the American Institute for Cancer Research, the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization recommend “eating a rainbow” — many kinds of colourful fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds to ensure we are benefiting from a broad variety of phytonutrients.

This has been the guiding principle for NeoLife’s phytonutrient supplements:

Carotenoid Complex was formulated to bridge the gap in our dietary intake of these important phytonutrients. From its conception we recognised that carotenoids work synergistically and that each carotenoid may have a specific function in the body. Carotenoid Complex is therefore a broad-spectrum supplement delivering the carotenoids that would be present in an optimal serving of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables.

Carotenoid Complex is among the most researched nutrition supplements in the market. In a series of clinical trials conducted between 1993 to 2001 by various research institutions we showed that carotenoids in Carotenoid Complex are bioavailable–they are efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream. We also showed that supplementation with Carotenoid Complex lowers markers of oxidative damage and enhances parameters of immune function.

Specifically, these studies showed that Carotenoid Complex dramatically increased both immune cell levels and overall immune cell responsiveness. Supplementation with Carotenoid Complex boosted levels of a particular type of white blood cells, the lymphocytes, which are the body’s first immunologic line of defence against disease. Supplementation with Carotenoid Complex also increased the level of another type of immune cell: natural killer cells. These cells are very important in fighting off virally infected cells.

Flavonoid Complex was NeoLife’s first polyphenol supplement. Flavonoid Complex contains flavonoids representative of all flavonoid classes — flavones, flavanols, flavanones, anthocyanins and catechins — just as they naturally occur in whole fruits and vegetables. NeoLife’s exclusive blend of flavonoid-rich extracts and concentrates is derived from cranberries, kale, green tea, beets, mixed berries, red and black grapes, oranges, lemons and grapefruit. Each tablet provides the phytonutrient value of an optimal serving of flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables.

Cruciferous Plus provides an optimal serving of phytonutrients from selected cruciferous vegetables— broccoli, radish, kale, yellow mustard and watercress. These vegetables are unique in that they are a rich source of sulfur-containing compounds that impart their pungent aroma and bitter taste. In our body these compounds have a number of activities that promote health and prevent disease.

PhytoDefense with 3 Carotenoid Complex, 2 Flavonoid Complex and 1 Cruciferous Plus delivers a broad range of powerful phytonutrients from whole food sources. It is formulated to deliver the different classes of carotenoids, flavonoids and cruciferous vegetable health protective compounds as you would find in six servings of phytonutrient rich fruits and vegetables.



  1. Brindha PP. Role of phytochemicals as immunomodulatory agents: A review. International Journal of Green Pharmacy (IJGP). 2016;10(1). doi:10.22377/ijgp.v10i1.600
  2. Naithani R, Mehta RG, Shukla D, Chandersekera SN, Moriarty RM. Antiviral Activity of Phytochemicals: A Current Perspective. In: Watson RR, Zibadi S, Preedy VR, eds. Dietary Components and Immune Function. Nutrition and Health. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press; 2010:421-468. doi:10.1007/978-1-60761-061-8_24
  3. Gupta C, Prakash D. Phytonutrients as therapeutic agents. J Complement Integr Med. 2014;11(3):151-169. doi:10.1515/jcim-2013-0021
  4. Kramer TR, Burri BJ. Modulated mitogenic proliferative responsiveness of lymphocytes in whole-blood cultures after a low-carotene diet and mixed-carotenoid supplementation in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;65(3):871-875. doi:10.1093/ajcn/65.3.871


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