Durian And Its Impact On The Immune System

  • Suzanna Nock BSc (Hons) Immunology and Pharmacology, University of Strathclyde, Scotland
  • Maria Weissenbruch Doctor (Ph.D.), Cell and Developmental Biology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany

What is durian?              

Durian is a large fruit with white flesh and a thick shell with green spikes. It is similar in size to a watermelon. However, it has been compared to fruit, honey, sulphur, and rotting onions with its scent, which may come as a shock to first-timers. This exotic fruit has a unique taste, combining savoury and sweet; it has even been described as “a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds”. Due to its creamy texture, it works well in ice creams and smoothies but is quite versatile and can be used in dishes, including sticky rice or even pizzas. It is not very popular in countries such as the UK or America; however, it is very popular in Asia for its high nutritional content, and it is nicknamed the ‘king of fruits’ because of this. Despite its popularity in some parts of the world, it has been known to cause severe food allergies. Furthermore, knowledge of how to properly cook this fruit is required as it is toxic when raw.

Due to its high nutritional content, this fruit has amazing benefits throughout the body including decreasing your risk of cancer, helping to prevent heart disease, reducing your blood sugar as well as fighting infection by enhancing your immune system. A healthy and well-functioning immune system is crucial for your overall health as this defends you against outside pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses, entering your body and wreaking havoc. A drop in the health of your immune system will allow these pathogens to multiply and grow, which can be life-threatening if not dealt with. This highlights the importance of caring for the health of your immune system and supplying yourself with as many things as possible to improve your health and proper functioning. Durian is high in iron, copper, potassium, and vitamins A and C, which are all important for overall health, especially for your immune system. In this article, we will explore further the nutritional components of durian and how they are great for your immune system.

Vitamin A

Durian is rich in vitamin A, which has a range of different roles within the body, including protecting your eyesight and supporting growth and development. This includes improving the integrity of your skin by enhancing skin cell growth and improving your physical defences against infections. Vitamin A is also known to help the development of mucosal surfaces, such as your digestive tract, whilst also enhancing the production of mucus within these areas. Not only can this help with the day-to-day functioning of your body, but it can also help to flush away any infections you may have. Studies have discovered that a deficiency in this vitamin can lead to your skin cells shrinking, and a process called cornification occurs in your skin, digestive system, and eyes. This involves the death of these cells accumulating on the surface, which creates a hard, dry surface which is not pleasant and can be damaging to your health.1

Additionally, vitamin A is crucial for the normal functioning of your immune system and helps to maintain a healthy number of white blood cells. Vitamin A in regular doses is necessary for your lymphoid organs, such as your lymph nodes or spleen, which is where naïve immune cells will become mature, multiply, and then create a strong response against the infection.2

Not only can this vitamin protect you from infection, but it can also help to alleviate the symptoms when you currently have an infection. It was found that children with an infection have decreased levels of vitamin A which can prolong and worsen symptoms of the infection, highlighting the importance of making sure you are getting enough vitamin A from your diet if you currently have an infection. Deficiency in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin A, is severely detrimental to your health and can worsen your defence against invading pathogens whilst also dampening your immune response.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has long been known as the ‘go-to’ vitamin to keep infections at bay. However, vitamin C cannot be made in the body naturally, so it needs to come from the foods we eat. Durian is a great way to get all your vitamin C needs as a serving offers you 80% of your total vitamin C requirements for the day. Like vitamin A, vitamin C levels decrease when you are ill, but vitamin C has some amazing effects at protecting you from pathogens by improving your skin barrier whilst also improving the immune response against any infection you may currently have.

This vitamin is an antioxidant, which is a chemical that is capable of preventing free radicals from wreaking havoc and causing extensive damage to your body. Free radicals are made as a by-product of natural metabolic processes, but they can also be made when you are exposed to harmful elements such as excessive UV exposure. If free radicals are not dealt with, they can cause damage to cellular components such as DNA, which can potentially lead to cells turning cancerous and a tumour forming.3

Vitamin C also has an important role within your immune system and can enhance your immune cell functioning through its antioxidative properties. Vitamin C can build up within your immune cells and can allow them to move to the site of infection faster and enhance their production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are chemicals that can target and kill infectious cells.4


Potassium is an important mineral for your whole body, but it can enhance the functioning of your immune system. This mineral is important for immune cell activation and cytokine production, and it helps to signal other immune cells that there is a problem. Potassium also helps to improve phagocytosis, which is a process by which pathogens, such as bacteria, are engulfed by an immune cell and broken down. Additionally, potassium helps to enhance nitric oxide (NO) production and neutrophil elastase, which are produced to improve your body’s defence against microbial infections.5

Copper and iron

Durian is a good way of including copper and iron into your diet. These two minerals are often overlooked; however, they are crucial for your immune system and can enhance your immune system’s defence against infections.

A decrease in your copper levels has been shown to negatively affect your immune response, which can increase your chance of catching a nasty infection. This is because a copper deficiency can prevent your immune cells from properly multiplying during an infection, which means the infection has a better chance of taking effect. Copper also aids the immune response as it acts as an antimicrobial agent and is commonly used as a treatment in healthcare. Specifically, copper is used as a fungicide as it targets and destroys the fungal membrane, which kills the fungal cell.6

Iron is another agent which is great for your immune system. Similar to copper, iron aids the proliferation of your immune cells, which helps create a strong army against infection. Iron can help with immune cell generation within the bone marrow and thymus, which are organs in which B cells and T cells are generated.7 These cells have an immense role in the immune response, which highlights the importance of adequate iron intake levels. However, iron can also aid the proliferation of pathogenic cells, such as bacterial and fungal cells, therefore, care should be taken and your iron intake should be monitored to make sure you are at adequate levels.

Incorporating durian into the diet

Durian can seem quite intimidating due to its thick, spiky exterior. However, it can be incorporated into the diet by adding it to juice, soups, ice cream, or just having it as a side dish. One serving is 234 grams, which supplies you with most of your daily requirements of many vitamins and minerals, making it an important fruit to try.

How much is too much?

Despite durian’s highly nutritious contents, the minerals can induce some health problems if overeat regularly. This fruit is high in potassium, which can cause hyperkalaemia, which can affect many areas of your body, including your heart. Too much potassium in your system for extended periods can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, which is when your heart starts to beat out of its normal range.

Additionally, if you are new to durian, eating small amounts to begin with is recommended to allow your digestive system to get used to the high fibre content. Eating too much too soon can result in an upset stomach. Furthermore, if you are a food allergy sufferer, durian may not be for you as this fruit is known to cause serious allergic reactions.


  1. Durian is known as the ‘king of fruits’ due to it containing many vitamins and minerals which can aid your immune response and decrease your chances of catching nasty infections. However, durian is known for its peculiar scent, which has been described as fruit, honey, sulphur and rotting onions.
  2. Durian contains high levels of vitamins A and C as well as potassium, copper and iron. These all help to enhance your immune system, but care should be taken as too much of these minerals can damage your health.
  3. This fruit can be added to your diet through soups, smoothies, and side dishes such as sticky rice, but it needs to be cooked properly, as raw fruits can be toxic.
  4. Durian is known to cause allergic reactions in susceptible people, therefore, if you commonly suffer from food allergies, it may be best if you steer clear of durian.


  1. Shetty S, Gokul S. Keratinization and its disorders. Oman Med J. 2012;27(5):348-57.
  2. Huang Z, Liu Y, Qi G, Brand D, Zheng SG. Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. J Clin Med. 2018;7(9).
  3. Lobo V, Patil A, Phatak A, Chandra N. Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacogn Rev. 2010;4(8):118-26.
  4. De la Fuente M, Sanchez C, Vallejo C, Diaz-Del Cerro E, Arnalich F, Hernanz A. Vitamin C and vitamin C plus E improve the immune function in the elderly. Exp Gerontol. 2020;142:111118.
  5. Do EA, Gries CM. Beyond Homeostasis: Potassium and Pathogenesis during Bacterial Infections. Infect Immun. 2021;89(7):e0076620.
  6. Arendsen LP, Thakar R, Sultan AH. The Use of Copper as an Antimicrobial Agent in Health Care, Including Obstetrics and Gynecology. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2019;32(4).
  7. Soyano A, Gomez M. [Role of iron in immunity and its relation with infections]. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 1999;49(3 Suppl 2):40S-6S.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Suzanna Nock

BSc (Hons) Immunology and Pharmacology, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

With a strong interest for science, Suzanna pursued a degree in Immunology and Pharmacology in one of the top universities in Scotland.

During her final year and with the hopes of delving into a career in medical writing, she joined Klarity as an intern where she has elevated her writing skills and increased her range of knowledge within other areas of science and healthcare.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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