Many of us rely on the flu shot to keep us fit during the cold winter months.
But research suggests that the fat western diet can hamper the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Scientists looked at the effect of the food additive tert-butyl hydroquinone (tBHQ) – often found in cooking oils, frozen meats, chips and crackers – in mice.
They discovered that exposure to tBHQ reduces the number of virus-fighting cells in the bodies of rodents when they fight the flu.
And when the animals were later exposed to the same virus, their bodies were less able to recognize the life-threatening pathogen – and to launch an immune response.
The fat western diet can make the flu shot less effective, research suggests (stock)
The research was conducted by Michigan State University and led by Robert Freeborn, a fourth-year PhD student in the pharmacology and toxicology department.
& # 39; If you receive a vaccine, but part of the immune system does not learn to recognize and fight virus-infected cells, this may make the vaccine less effective, & # 39; said Mr. Freeborn.
& # 39; We found that when tBHQ was introduced via the diet, it affected certain cells that are important to perform a proper immune response to the flu. & # 39;
Flu was responsible for up to 650,000 respiratory-related deaths worldwide during the 2017/18 influenza season, the authors wrote in their presentation at the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting.
In the US alone, 79,000 people died of flu that season.
The researchers noted that the number of deaths from flu is not improving, despite an increase in the number of people being vaccinated against the virus.
They wondered whether environmental factors could aggravate the spread of the infection or reduce the effectiveness of the puncture.
tBHQ is added to food to extend shelf life and it has been shown to reduce the activation of the immune cell CD4 in laboratory models.
To test whether the same effect occurs in animals, the researchers added tBHQ to the food of mice in amounts comparable to the levels in the Western diet.
It is worth nothing, the additive is not always mentioned on the ingredient list of a product.
Two weeks after the diet, the rodents were exposed to one of the four flu strains.
Ten days later the researchers collected fluid from the animals' lungs and lymph nodes to measure the CD4 and CD8 T cell values that form the immune system.
& # 39; CD4 T cells are like movie directors telling everyone what to do, & # 39; said Mr. Freeborn.
& # 39; The CD8 T cells are the actors who do what the director wants. & # 39;
HOW DOES THIS FLU OUTBREAK COMPARE WITH THAT IN THE FIRST SIX YEARS?
CONFIRMED DEATHS IN INTENSIVE CARE
ADMISSIONS TO INTENSIVE CARE
The results revealed that exposure to tBHQ affected the ability of CD8 T cells to enter the lungs compared to mice receiving a control diet.
tBHQ also delayed the activation of the T cells, thereby reducing their ability to fight infections faster.
& # 39; In general, we saw a reduced number of CD8 T cells in the lung and a reduction in the number of CD4 and CD8 T cells that could identify the flu virus in the mice exposed to tBHQ, & # 39; said Mr. Freeborn.
& # 39; These mice also had widespread inflammation and mucus production in their lungs.
& # 39; Our studies showed that mice on a tBHQ diet had a weakened immune response to influenza infection.
& # 39; In our mouse model, tBHQ suppressed the function of two types of T cells, helper and killer T cells.
& # 39; Eventually this led to more severe symptoms during a subsequent influenza infection. & # 39;
In a second part of the study, the researchers investigated whether tBHQ affected the ability of rodents to respond to a flu strain that they had previously experienced.
The results showed that the mice on the control diet began to show signs of recovery three days later.
But those exposed to tBHQ lasted twice as long, with them only starting to fight the infection on day six.
& # 39; This suggests that tBHQ impaired the memory response to infection with related strains of the influenza virus, which are expected to correlate with reduced vaccination effectiveness & # 39 ;, wrote the authors.
tBHQ also caused the mice to lose more weight while fighting the infection.
& # 39; It is important that the body can recognize a virus and remember how it can be effectively controlled, & # 39; said Mr. Freeborn.
& # 39; That's the whole point of vaccines, to stimulate this memory and produce immunity.
& # 39; tBHQ appears to be hampering this process. & # 39;
Although it is unclear exactly why this happens, Mr. Freeborn believes that tBHQ & # 39; some proteins that are known to suppress the immune system & # 39; regulates & # 39 ;.
His team plans to investigate the impact of the additive on blood samples from people.
In the meantime, the best way to prevent these effects is to eliminate or minimize tBHQ from your diet.
& # 39; It can be difficult to know if you are using tBHQ because it is not always on the ingredient labels, & # 39; said Mr. Freeborn.
& # 39; Because tBHQ is largely used to stabilize fats, a low-fat diet and reducing processed snacks will help reduce tBHQ consumption. & # 39;
Freeborn also emphasized that getting the flu shot annually is the best way to protect yourself against the infection.
THE 2017/18 FLU SEASON AND WHY IT WAS SO VERY WORKING
The rising number of flu cases in the UK and the rest of the world was due to an increase in four aggressive subtypes that simultaneously attacked the population.
One was the so-called & # 39; Aussie flu & # 39 ;, a type of influenza A that tripled the number of expected cases in Australia during the winter of the country.
Experts feared that the virulent H3N2 strain that reached the UK could be as deadly to humanity as the 1968 Hong Kong flu, which killed a million people.
Another was a type of influenza B, called Yamagata, and & # 39; Japanese flu & # 39; mentioned, who in most cases was blamed on the United Kingdom in the winter.
Its rapid spread ensured that it was not included in a vaccine given to the elderly. However, experts claim that it was less serious.
Usually only one subtype, influenza A or B, is responsible for most cases. The bug spreads easily in the cold weather.
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