Fermented foods shown to protect against the flu


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The flu season has hit America especially hard this year. Though influenza peaks in February, 37 children have died already; overall mortality for 2017-2018 was double last year’s numbers before midwinter even arrived.

Eyebrows were raised a few months ago when researchers realized this year’s flu vaccine does not prevent against H3N2, the dominant strain. While anecdotally it seems people are recovering (at least here in Los Angeles), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that numbers are still rising.

With all of these troubling conditions, a little bit of positive news from Georgia State University: fermented foods appear to help protect against the influenza virus, and even prevent a secondary infection.

During the worst years the flu affects three to five million people in the United States; when an epidemic strikes, it can claim up to half a million lives. Lead author Sang-Moo Kang, professor at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State, writes that fermented vegetable and dairy products help us deal with a variety of ailments: “Studies have found some lactic acid bacteria strains provide partial protection against bacterial infectious diseases,” she said, “such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, as well as cold and influenza viruses.”

map of influenza in the United States
map of influenza in the United States

A Map of flu activity in the United States for the week ending January 20, 2018. Source: CDC. Image: Hilary Fung, NPR.

During the worst years the flu affects three to five million people in the United States; when an epidemic strikes, it can claim up to half a million lives. Lead author Sang-Moo Kang, professor at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State, writes that fermented vegetable and dairy products help us deal with a variety of ailments: “Studies have found some lactic acid bacteria strains provide partial protection against bacterial infectious diseases,” she said, “such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, as well as cold and influenza viruses.”

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