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Does chicken soup really help with the flu?

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It is the middle of winter and the flu epidemic in the USA has erupted again. Do you also suffer from a runny nose, a hoarse voice and blocked sinuses? Then make a pan of (fresh) chicken soup. American research has shown that this home-garden-and-kitchen remedy can really have a healing effect.

35 years ago American pulmonologists published a study in the journal Chest that required fifteen healthy volunteers to gulp hot water or chicken soup. Then it was measured how freely they could breathe through their noses afterwards. Subjects who had eaten the soup were found to have a little more breathing space. According to the researchers, this would have to do with a certain aromatic component in the soup.

chicken soup
chicken soup

No chicken soup? Then hot water!

What was striking was that the difference with the people who had only taken hot water turned out to be very small. The warm water vapor that rises above the soup bowl is probably mainly responsible for the effect on the nasal mucosa. The effect is comparable to the effect of steaming over a container of hot water.

Anti-inflammatory effect

In a second study in the same journal, Stephen Rennard, a professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska, tested the chicken soup that his wife always serves up with family members who have flu. In the lab, he released the soup on the blood of healthy volunteers using a special technique, which is how he discovered that chicken soup has an anti-inflammatory effect. The soup slows down the movements of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell attracted after an infection. These are said to be partly responsible for classic cold symptoms such as a snotty nose. The fewer of those cells in the throat and nose, the better we feel, says Rennard.

Chicken soup from a can

The recipe for Mrs. Rennard’s chicken soup is still on the university’s website. Incidentally, the professor found the same effect with thirteen types of canned soup. It is therefore unclear which ingredients play a role. Rennard suspects that there is a connection between the chicken and the many vegetables in the soup.

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