Message from JAFI President

Message from the second president of JAFI, Dr. Makoto Shimizu
Prof. Emeritus of the University of Tokyo and Guest Prof. of Tokyo University of Agriculture

 In 2004, Dr. S. Kaminogawa established JAFI. After 15 years of service, he retired from the JAFI presidency and I was asked to succeed him. I have been involved in the Food Immunology Research Group that preceded JAFI, and took responsibility for the academic committee of JAFI from the beginning. I remember that the 1st JAFI Annual Meeting at Showa Women’s University was met with an unexpectedly huge number of participants exceeding our registration capacity, and the lecture hall was filled with many participants who had to stand. I still vividly remember the enthusiasm with which lectures were received, “The perspective of food immunological research” by Prof. S. Kaminogawa, “Intestinal microbiota and functional foods: Impact on immunity” by Prof. S. Salminen (Finland), and “Mucosal Immunity: a point of contact for Immunology and Food Science” by Prof. H. Kiyono. I also remember three symposia titled, “Immune regulation by probiotics,” “Development of immune functional foods” and “Model mice for immunological diseases – a variety of in vivo evaluation systems.” The keywords in these titles, namely, “food,” “intestinal microbiota,” “probiotics,” “mucosal immunity,” “immune functional food,” and “the evaluation of immune function” form the foundation of the subsequent JAFI activities. This demonstrates that JAFI was started with a clear concept and direction, and has consistently pursued this line. I would like to express my deep respect to Dr. Kaminogawa and the members of JAFI for their efforts to establish the academic field of “Food Immunology” as a first in the world.

  Over the past 15 years, the science and society have both changed greatly. Although the functional food system, Food for Specified Health Uses (FoSHU) or TOKUHO, approved by the Japanese government since 1991 does not include the category of “Immune regulatory food”, the new system of Foods with Function Claims (FFC) launched by the government five years ago has accepted food products with immunological function claims. Due to the rapid development of mucosal immunity research, we now understand more about gut immunology. Thanks to meta-genomic analysis, we are beginning to see the possibility of regulating the immune function by food via intestinal microbiota. On the other hand, experiments using animal models are under scrutiny, and tight regulations are complicating research efforts. Such suppression may cause a decrease in animal studies, which may affect JAFI activities by our corporate members.

  On the occasion of writing this message, I re-read Prof. Kaminogawa’s message of 5 years ago, hereby quote from it: “Immunity is a function to protect us from the insults of pathogenic microbes and cancer among others. The decline of immune function due to causes such as failure to achieve balanced food intake, ageing, and increased stress may lead to risks for pathogenic infection, cancer, and a variety of life-style-related diseases. I believe it will become possible to remediate such reduced immune function by the intake of appropriate foods with functions.

  Presently, we are threatened by the new Corona virus Covid-SARS-19 pandemic. No therapy is available so far, and the outcome of the infection is totally dependent on the ability of the individual’s immune system to suppress the progression to severe illness. It is known that outrageously misleading information was spread, for example, claiming virus suppression by drinking water at a temperature of 26°C, which, on the other hand, shows the world expects oral remedies to protect people from Covid infection. We may have to consider looking into methods to provide accurate information concerning “Food and protection against infection.” The relationship between Food and the Immune system, however, is not that simple and straightforward, and notwithstanding the basic and applied research, we may want to become more involved in making a social contribution.

  I wish for greater participation from all over the world in JAFI activities to deepen academic studies related to “Food and Immunity” and related problems. This I hope from the bottom of my heart.

March 12, 2020
Makoto Shimizu