Does chicken soup really have medicinal properties to help people fight off colds and flus? Is it, as my grandmother used to call it, “Jewish penicillin?” The PediaBlog looked into the science — and at the recipe used in a landmark 2000 study — nearly five years ago:
What we know about URI’s is that they can only be prevented, not cured. Caused by viruses, antibiotics are pointless. Over-the-counter cold remedies have been shown through numerous studies not to be effective in relieving symptoms in children. There is one thing… [that] can reduce cold symptoms — something that has been recognized and used for centuries…
Lisa Drayer revisits this age old question of chicken soup’s utility as a nutrifying, hydrating, healing elixir by reviewing a study from 1978, comparing the effects on common upper respiratory symptoms by drinking three different beverages — cold water, hot water, and hot chicken soup:
Hot chicken soup was more effective than hot water in stimulating something known as the mucociliary transport system, which helps move things along in the upper and lower respiratory tract, allowing the body to rid itself of particles and infection.
“The mucociliary transport system is important for getting rid of every respiratory infection, including colds,” Saketkhoo said. “Whatever can make airways clear up faster may decrease risk of infection or clear an existing infection.”
Sipping hot fluids helps to warm the bottom of your nasal pharynx, which can also help improve symptoms, Saketkhoo explained. This might explain why cold water was least effective in the study. But the study suggested that there’s something in chicken soup that gives it an edge.
Drayer cites other reasons why chicken soup is worth a shot:
“Chicken soup can offer a nutrient-dense food option when someone is struggling with a poor appetite,” said Kristen Smith, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It can also help increase hydration during a time when this could be a challenge.”
Most chicken soups contain ingredients that provide lots of vitamins and minerals, according to Smith. For example, carrots provide your body with vitamin A, a nutrient that plays a role in the immune response, and chicken stock contains zinc, which may help fight a cold when consumed in high amounts. Chicken may help with the repair of body tissue and contains the amino acid cysteine, which some researchers are exploring for improving colds in supplement form, though Smith cautions that “most homemade and canned varieties would probably not provide adequate amounts to offer benefits.”
Tomorrow on The PediaBlog: Kids’ Menu — Chicken Soup.