Dr. Stephen Rennard, a pulmonary expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, found evidence that chicken soup contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent a cold’s miserable side effects.
“My wife’s grandmother says that chicken soup is good for colds,” explains Rennard, whose findings were published in the current issue of Chest, the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians. “Just because your grandma said something doesn’t mean that it’s not true.”
Some doctors believe that the soup’s benefits are mainly psychosomatic, that it’s the perfect comfort food. Other doctors say the hot soup clears congestion and provides the body with needed hydration to flush out viral bugs.
Researchers believe colds are caused by viral infections in the upper respiratory tract. The body responds with inflammation, which triggers white blood cells to migrate to the area.
These bacteria-devouring cells have little ability to kill off a virus, and as a side effect, stimulate the production of mucous, which may cause the symptoms of stuffy heads, coughs and sneezing.
Dr. Rennard’s theory is that some ingredient in the soup blocks or slows down the amount of cells congregating in the lung area, possibly relieving the development of these cold symptoms.
Rennard tested a family recipe passed down from his wife’s Lithuanian grandmother that contained chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, parsley, salt and pepper.
The white blood cells migrated less often in the presence of each of the ingredients. But it’s unclear what compound within the ingredients prevented their motion.
“The biologically active material is unknown,” Rennard admits. “It may be that some complex chemistry takes place, that the entire concoction makes it work.”
Rennard also examined canned chicken soups and found many worked even better than homemade.
They included Knorr’s chicken noodle, Campbell’s Home Cookin’ chicken vegetable and Progress chicken noodle.
“You hate it when your grandma’s soups doesn’t come in first,” Rennard says. But in our house, in terms of which one tastes best, grandma’s soup wins hands down.”