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Science Finally Shows What Grandma Knew All Along

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And how much soup should you eat in order to feel better? Well, Rennard and his colleagues can't really say. But, they did check the power of the brew at various dilutions. "We could detect an effect at a 1:200 dilution," he says, "which corresponds with [the volume of] one bowl diluted into the total body volume. But, we have no idea whether the active compounds in soup are even absorbable." Another interesting tidbit about the soup: Rennard says the complete soup wasn't harmful to cells -- even though some of the vegetables alone mildly were.

"Grandma's soup," as the researchers called it, was a bit unusual in that it contained that many different vegetables. Would other chicken soups work? Thirteen supermarket-bought brands were put to the test. Five -- made by Knorr, Campbell's, Lipton, and Progresso -- worked as well as Grandma's concoction at taming neutrophil activity. But, don't go looking for an effect from Campbell's Ramen noodle, chicken flavor. Even tap water worked better.

The authors say other things may contribute to the seemingly positive effect of chicken soup on cold sufferers. Sipping warm liquid can help clear the nose. The healing atmosphere surrounding the serving of chicken soup may exert a placebo effect. And, particles in soup can physically affect neutrophils. Still, a clear, strained version of Grandma's soup did work -- leading the researchers to hypothesize that chicken soup is quite possibly a brew with medical significance.

Others were impressed with the quality of the research behind what might seem a wacky theory. "This study showed it did have a mild, anti-inflammatory effect," says Alan Plummer, MD, chief of pulmonary and critical care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. He does caution, though, that chicken soup, helpful as it might be, isn't a cure for anything.

Respiratory therapist Bill Gutman, president of the Georgia Society for Respiratory Care, says he would suggest that some patients give it a try. "This says it may actually keep inflammation down," he says. "It certainly makes sense."

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