tBHQ in Junk Food Might Affect Immune System and Flu Fighting Ability

A recent research says that consumption of fried foods, crackers, and frozen meat reduces the immune response of the body. Michigan State University conducted the study, led by Robert Freeborn, a fourth year Ph.D. student. He will present the study in the yearly meet-up at American Society for pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in 2019.

Junk food usually contains additives to enhance taste, smell or color. These additives mainly contain tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ). This compound is known to suppress the effective functioning of the human immune system, and its ability to fight flu. Moreover, due to rising prevalence of flu, the study deduced that it would reduce the effect of flu vaccine as well. This is due to its adverse effect on T cells, which are an important element in the immune system.

The study aims to help deduce the reason behind seasonal flu as a key health threat across the world. Estimates are that 290,000 to 650,000 people across the globe die from respiratory ailments every year.

Slow Activation of T Cells Suppresses Immune Response

“During the study mice who were on tBHQ diet died because of weak immune system and flu infection,” stated Robert. In mice tBHQ reduced function of two kinds of T cells – killer T cells and helper T cells. As a result it gave more adverse symptoms while suffering from flu.

When a person suffers from flu, killer T cells kill the infected cells and removes them from the system. The helper T cells assist other parts of immune system and coordinate to get achieve better immune response. According to the experiment, immune system of mice on tBHQ diet was slow to activate killer T cells and helper T cells. This resulted in slow removal of virus from the body.

tBHQ upregulates some proteins that reduces the disease fighting capacity of the immune system. Nevertheless, it needs more work to confirm whether it’s the up-regulation of these proteins causing the suppression of immune functions.

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