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Food additive increases flu and complicates treatment

Food additive increases flu and complicates treatment


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Stronger flu symptoms from our diet?

An additive in many products, such as frozen meat and fish, suppresses the immune response that the body exerts when fighting the flu. For example, exposure to this additive can reduce the effectiveness of a flu vaccine.

A recent study by Michigan State University found that the additive tert-butylhydroquinone hampers the body's fight against flu. The research results will be presented at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting during the 2019 Experimental Biology Meeting in Orlando, April 6-9.

TBHQ increases flu symptoms

Current studies in mice suggest that the additive called tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ), which is found in many common products, has a negative effect on the fight against flu. It causes the severity of the flu symptoms to increase. The effectiveness of the flu vaccine is also reduced by the effect of tBHQ exposure on T cells, a vital component of the immune system.

Breathing difficulties caused by flu kill up to 650,000 people worldwide every year

This relationship could explain why seasonal influenza remains a major health risk worldwide. An estimated 290,000 to 650,000 people die each year from respiratory problems caused by flu worldwide. The studies have shown that mice on tBHQ diet have a weakened immune response to influenza infection.

In the model experiment investigated in mice, tBHQ suppressed the function of two types of T cells, so-called helper and killer T cells. This ultimately led to more serious symptoms during a subsequent influenza infection, the researchers explain. When a person is infected with an influenza virus, helper T cells guide other parts of the immune system and help coordinate an appropriate response while killer T cells search for infected cells and remove them from the body.

Defense against flu has been greatly slowed down

In their experiments, the researchers found that mice that consumed a tBHQ-enriched diet activated T helper cells and killer T cells more slowly. This leads to a delayed fight against the virus. At the moment, a leading hypothesis is that tBHQ causes these effects by enhancing some proteins that are known to suppress the immune system. The expression of these proteins, CTLA-4 and IL-10, was enhanced in two different models in the laboratory. However, more research is needed to determine whether the upregulation of these proteins is actually the cause of the effects of tBHQ during influenza.

Fighting new infections was worse

When the mice were later re-infected with another but related strain of flu, the animals with a diet high in tBHQ were sick longer and lost weight. This suggests that tBHQ affects the so-called memory response, which normally stimulates the immune system to fight a second infection. Because this response is central to the functioning of vaccines, impairment of this function may reduce the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. T cells are involved in the immune response to a variety of diseases, so that tBHQ could also play a role in other types of infectious diseases, the researchers explain.

Do we all eat tBHQ?

tBHQ is an additive to improve the shelf life of food - with a maximum permissible concentration of 200 ppm in food products. It is unclear how much tBHQ people are normally exposed to, although estimates suggest that, for example, some people in the United States consume almost twice as much tBHQ as the maximum recommended by the FAO / WHO Joint Committee on Food Additives. It is difficult to know whether and how much tBHQ you are consuming, as it is not always listed on the ingredient label, the study authors explain. For example, it could be contained in frying oil used to make chips. The best way to limit tBHQ exposure is to be more aware of the choice of foods you eat. Since tBHQ is largely used to stabilize fats, a low-fat diet and the reduction in the consumption of processed snacks can help to reduce tBHQ consumption, according to the researchers. Further studies on human blood samples are now needed to find out how exactly tBHQ affects T cell activity. (as)

Author and source information


Video: The Truth About Immune Boosting Foods. Part 2 Optimal Nutrition (June 2022).


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