It is the time of year when everyone around us is coming down with either the cold or the flu. We are meeting family members and friends for parties, the weather is cold and the stress of the New Year is ramping up. When feeling under the weather, it’s almost instinctive that we want to relax under a warm blanket and have a cup of grandma’s famous chicken noodle soup to aid in our recovery. Most people value chicken soup as nature’s anti-flu elixir but is there any evidence supporting this belief or is it just a folk myth?
Believe it or not, there is new research that may support the benefit of chicken soup in fighting off viral infections and boosting our immune system (1). A recent study found that carnosine, a potent antioxidant found in chicken (and chicken soup), has a key role is disrupting viral replication and spread inside our cells. Carnosine is a key antioxidant with a primary role of neutralizing damaging free radicals inside our cells. By comparison, vitamin C is another potent antioxidant but its role is outside the cell. The influenza virus causes its damage and infection but taking over our own human cellular machinery to make more copies of itself. It actually will infect and hijack healthy human cells as a mechanism to spread its infection. The study found that carnosine blocks this “hijacking” process by quenching free radials produced by the virus. This suggests that a diet high in carnosine could help prevent and possibly even stop the flu. Carnosine is also available as a supplement in capsule form where it is used as a powerful antioxidant to prevent the damage that occurs in diabetes, high performance sports and aging.
This wasn’t the first study citing that chicken soup is more than just folklore. A widely publicized study in 2000 found that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory activity, which may reduce the symptoms of the flu such as headaches, chest congestion and achiness (2). The results were preliminary but they were the first to lend credibility to an age-old remedy passed down for generations. To read more about this study including the full text and original chicken soup recipe used in the trial click here.
Is this enough evidence to state that chicken soup is a flu-busting cure? Not really, but it does shed some light on what we can do if we feel an infection starting. It does lend more support to a flu remedy we swear by and will continue to pass down from generation to generation. Check out my upcoming blogs to see my anti-flu plan and see the recipe for my very own Immune Boosting Chicken Soup Recipe.
(1) Babizhayev MA, Deyev AI. Management of the virulent influenza virus infection by oral formulation of nonhydrolized carnosine and isopeptide of carnosine attenuating proinflammatory cytokine-induced nitric oxide production. Am J Ther. 2012 Jan;19(1):e25-47
(2) Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, Rennard SI. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest. 2000 Oct;118(4):1150-7.
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