Chicken soup really CAN fight a cold, say some scientists
Chicken soup is good for the soul, they say. And as a homespun remedy for everything that might ail you during winter, there are few things as deliciously soothing.
But could such a broth be more than just a cold comfort? According to the latest scientific study, the answer is yes.
Research in the American Journal of Therapeutics showed that a compound found in chicken soup – carnosine – helped the body’s immune system to fight the early stages of flu.
But the authors warned this benefit ended as soon as the soup was excreted by the body, so that means you may need to have a fairly constant supply.
The study wasn’t the first to look at this. More than a decade ago, Dr Stephen Rennard, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, wanted to find out why his wife’s recipe for chicken soup, handed down through generations, was so healing.
Using blood samples from volunteers, he showed that the soup inhibited the movement of the most common type of white blood cell, neutrophils, which defend against infection.
Dr Rennard theorised that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.
What he couldn’t do was identify the exact ingredients in the soup that made it effective against colds.
The tested soup contained chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery stems, parsley, salt and pepper.
The researchers also found many commercial soups had a similar inhibitory effect. It is probable that the combination of nutrients worked in synergy to provide the beneficial effect.
Another study, from Miami, also suggests chicken soup has more than a placebo effect.
It looked at how consuming it affected air flow and mucus in the noses of 15 volunteers who drank cold water, hot water or chicken soup.
It proved what ENT surgeons (experts in the upper airways, including the larynx) have long known: hot fluids help increase the movement of nasal mucus.
This in turn clears the airways, easing congestion.
But soup did a better job than the hot water as it also improves the function of protective cilia, the tiny hairlike projections in the nose that prevent contagions from entering the body.
Also, researchers at the University of Nebraska found the combination of vegetables and poultry in soup could help alleviate respiratory tract inflammation that results in feeling bunged-up.
All nutrients have some involvement in the complex workings of the immune system. But we know certain things about some of the common ingredients of broth.
Evidence suggests that organosulfides (naturally occurring chemicals found in garlic and onions), together with Vitamin D, stimulate production of immune cells called macrophage, while Vitamin C has an influence on both levels of neutrophils, and another type of immune chemical, interferon.
Vitamin A and carotenoids, found in carrots (a common ingredient of bouillon, the base of any good stock), help antibody production, while Vitamin E and zinc can influence the concentration of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
The other reason soups are recommended is because the nutrients are more easily absorbed than with solid versions. Remember to add a little fat – a drizzle of olive oil – to ensure the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (D, A, K and E).
You don’t have to live on chicken soup alone when you’re under the weather: the foods that offer a concentration of the nutrients mentioned include a wide range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and lean proteins.
Fit brass fixtures to cut superbugs, say scientists
Sounds interesting. I've got a lot of brassware in my house so I like the idea!
Brass door knobs, handles and handrails should be brought back into common use in public places to help combat superbugs, according to scientists.
Researchers have discovered that copper and alloys made from the metal, including brass, can prevent antibiotic resistance in bacteria from spreading.
Plastic and stainless steel surfaces, which are now widely used in hospitals and public settings, allow bacteria to survive and spread when people touch them.
Even if the bacteria die, DNA that gives them resistance to antibiotics can survive and be passed on to other bacteria on these surfaces. Copper and brass, however, can kill the bacteria and also destroy this DNA.
Professor Bill Keevil, head of the microbiology group at Southampton University, said using copper on surfaces in public places and on public transport could dramatically cut the threat posed by superbugs.
Professor Keevil said: “There are a lot of bugs on our hands that we are spreading around by touching surfaces. In a public building or mass transport, surfaces cannot be cleaned for long periods of time.
“Until relatively recently brass was a relatively commonly used surface. On stainless steel surfaces these bacteria can survive for weeks, but on copper surfaces they die within minutes.
“Part of the process DNA from bacteria is also destroyed just as rapidly on the copper, so you cannot get gene transfer on the surface.”
Almost 43,000 people a year are infected in hospitals with antibiotic resistant bacteria MRSA and Clostridium difficile.
Antibiotic resistance usually occurs in a single bacterium that then multiplies and passes on this resistance to other bacteria around them.
In research published in the journal Molecular Genetics of Bacteria, Professor Keevil and his colleagues found that compared to stainless steel bacteria on copper surfaces bacterial DNA rapidly degraded at room temperature.
Professor Keevil added: “We live in this new world of stainless steel and plastic, but perhaps we should go back to using brass more instead.”