Health: "Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever"

Society | December 20, 2002, Friday // 00:00

The old wives' tale, "feed a cold and starve a fever", has long been dismissed as stupid by doctors. But new research in the Netherlands suggests that feeding and fasting have dramatically different effects on the immune system.

Dutch scientists have found that eating a meal boosts the immune response that destroys viruses like those causing colds, while fasting stimulates the response that tackles the bacteria to blame for most fevers caused by illnesses such as bronchitis and tonsillitis.

Naturally beneficial - following are three traditional remedies found to be effective in medical studies.

1. An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Apples are a rich source of a soluble fibre called pectin. French scientists have shown that eating two a day provides enough pectin to reduce cholesterol levels by 10 per cent. Add vitamin C, potassium and folic acid and you have a prescription for good teeth and gums, a healthy heart and a long life.

2. Eating carrots will help you see in the dark

This will help if you have a chronic shortage of vitamin A in your body, as this is responsible for good night vision. Any vegetable which is a good source should help. However, if you eat a healthy balanced diet and have no problems with vision, then extra carrots will not give you the natural equivalent of night-vision goggles.

3. Eating fish makes you brainy

Fish, especially oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, pilchards and herrings, are good sources of omega-3 fats, which are needed for the development of brain and nerve cells, especially before birth and in the first few years of childhood. So, while fish oils are important for early brain development, eating fish when you're older doesn't actually make you more brainy. But research suggests that a regular intake of these omega-3 fats is important for brain function throughout life.

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