Antioxidants may increase the probability of developing allergic diseases and asthma

Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(5):973-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2004.11.011.


In addition to genetic predisposition, a lack of triggers for Th1 immune response like exposure to infections, endotoxins and dirt in childhood are supposed to be responsible for the higher incidence of allergic rhinitis and asthma (hygiene hypothesis). In vitro, beverages rich in antioxidants like green tea and wine were found to suppress formation of Th1-type cytokine interferon-gamma. Due to the existing cross-regulatory interplay between Th1- and Th2-type immune response, these beverages may thus slow-down Th1-type immune response and thereby favour an over-production of Th2-type cytokines. Also food rich in antioxidants may increase the risk of atopic disease. Thus, not only a lack of triggers for Th1 type immune response, but also a nutrition rich in antioxidants suppressing interferon-gamma would result in a persistence of Th2-type immune response and increase the susceptibility for allergic reactions and asthma. In addition to improved hygienic standards in the past decades, also social changes including the availability of functional food and food enriched in antioxidants may have increased the prevalence of atopic diseases in Western countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Probability
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • Antioxidants
  • Cytokines