Mice Given Processed Foods More Susceptible to Flu | Weather.com – The Weather Channel

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You know how every time you fell sick, your mom would insist on ghar ka khana and prohibit any takeout or processed foods? And we believed it was just an old wives’ tale that eating whole foods cured all illnesses. But now, a new study conducted on mice suggests that our mothers might’ve been onto something!

Led by a team from the University of Sydney, this research found that lab mice are more likely to survive a flu infection if fed grain-based foods rather than processed food.

As convenient as processed foods are, this comfort comes at a price. In the last few years, the many evils of these food items have come to light. But this study, in particular, serves to shed more light on the role of diet in illness recovery.

Some studies have shown, for example, that caloric density and the concentration of nutrients consumed while recovering from an infection can have a major impact on the severity of the infection. Through this study, researchers found evidence suggesting that other characteristics of food can also play a role in illness recovery — at least in mice.

The research originally aimed to analyse how mammals like mice fight off influenza infections. During the experiments, the team fed two groups of lab mice food thought to be equivalent in nutritional value (and hence unlikely to have different impacts on disease recovery). However, they didn’t realise that the meals differed in composition, with one group’s diet mainly consisting of grains and the other a highly processed diet.


Then, both groups were infected with the influenza virus and were kept on the same diets they had prior to being infected. And to their surprise, they found that all of those fed the highly processed diet died. Further, those fed the processed diet failed to regain the weight lost due to the illness too. On the other hand, the mice on the grain-based diet began regaining weight within ten days of the initial infection, and all of them recovered!

It is worth noting that prior studies by the team had shown that mice fed either diet when not battling an infection displayed little difference in health or behaviour. The researchers highlight that the difference in survival was not due to differences in an immune response, and instead had more to do with recovery issues.

The mice on the processed food diet wound up taking less nutrients than those given grains. Researchers also found some evidence suggesting IFN-γ, a signalling protein, played a role in the different outcomes.

T​he findings of this study have been highlighted in Cell Reports and can be accessed here.


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