Chicken soup slows neutrophils

Yesterday I felt a cold coming on. There was only one thing for it: chicken soup. Thankfully I had a gallon of the pure stuff in the freezer. I thawed it, drank it and woke this morning feeling swell.

My mother, and her mother before her, and doubtless all the mothers going back to Maimonides (who was the first to document the healing properties of chicken soup), all believed in the extraordinary power of this elixir. But were you to quiz a Jewish mother as to why it heals, the likely response might be something like “shut up and finish your soup”.

Inquisitive Jews all over the world have been given short shrift with such questions. Instead, like religion itself, you just have to make the leap of faith and believe. Maybe, I used to think, it is all psychosomatic and the healing properties exist not in the bowl, but in the conviction of our mothers and, subsequently, in our own heads.

I found myself wondering this morning whether there was anything substantive to the claim that chicken soup heals a cold. I came across some research undertaken by Dr Stephen Renard at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who set out to establish, once and for all, if there was any truth behind the myth.

The research set out to examine the movement of neutrophils. Now I am no scientist and a neutrophil meant nothing to me, but a little research of my own told me that it is the most common white cell found in the blood and it protects the body against infection. Scientists have long believed that a reduction in movement of neutrophils can “reduce activity in the upper respiratory tract that can cause symptoms associated with a cold”. Whatever. Anyway, Dr Renard’s research found that chicken soup blocks or inhibits movement of neutrophils, which reduces inflammation in the upper respiratory tract which prevents the cold from getting worse and, in some cases, actually makes it go away altogether.

So there you have it. Chicken soup is scientifically proven to be the best-tasting medicine on the planet.

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