Jade White, 23, with Aurora, 1, and cousins Eden Blackmur, 10, and Milla Blackmur, 8, eating fish and chips at Bells Beach Park, Contarf. Picture: Liam Kidston
Jade White, 23, with Aurora, 1, and cousins Eden Blackmur, 10, and Milla Blackmur, 8, eating fish and chips at Bells Beach Park, Contarf. Picture: Liam Kidston

Fish and chips could make you flu prone

FISH and chips could be making you more prone to getting the flu as new research shows a common food additive may hinder influenza vaccines.

One of Australia's leading infectious disease experts Professor Robert Booy, Head of the

Clinical Research team at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) is very excited by the preliminary findings from the international study.

Tert-butylhydroquinone or tBHQ, which can be found in cooking oils, frozen meats and especially fish as well as in processed foods such as chips and crackers, was found to alter the body's immune response to the virus.

"This is tantalising research from a very reputable source. It's not yet been tested on humans but in further research I would be very keen to see if our favourite fish and chips is actually helping to make us sick," Prof Booy told Newscorp.

 

Eating fish and chips may make you prone to flu. Picture: Penny Stephens
Eating fish and chips may make you prone to flu. Picture: Penny Stephens

"The tBHQ additive is in many popular foods like frozen fish and oil."

The study was conducted in mice by Michigan State University scientists and was presented at the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting in Orlando.

The additive slowed down the initial activation of T cells, reducing their ability to fight off an infection sooner and allowing the virus to run rampant in the mice until the cells fully activated.

"We determined that when tBHQ was introduced through the diet, it affected certain cells that are important in carrying out an appropriate immune response to the flu," Robert Freeborn, an associate professor in pharmacology and toxicology, said.

"It's important for the body to be able to recognise a virus and remember how to effectively fight it off.

 

"The whole point of vaccines is to spur this memory and produce immunity. TBHQ seems to impair this process."

Prof Booy advises all healthy Australians to get their flu vaccine right away.

"This will stop the spread of the virus to the elderly and those with chronic disease. These are the people that need to go see their doctor and organise their vaccine," Prof Booy said.

Jade White, 23, says her daughter Aurora has not yet had a flu shot but she tries to steer her away from foods with additives.

"I have been vaccinated and love fish and chips but from now on I think I'll try to source fresh fish," she said.