The body’s first line of defence is the immune system, which wears out as we age

Although cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the over-65s, poor function of the immune system, leading to diseases including chest infections and pneumonia, is the third highest cause of death (behind cancer) in 55- to 65-year-olds, and the fourth highest cause after the age of 65. Furthermore, immune dysfunction is related to cancer and is the greatest cause of death in people aged 45 to 64.

We are constantly beset with flurries of press coverage regarding immune system dysfunction, particularly during autumn and winter when our elderly population is encouraged to have inoculations against pneumonia and influenza. Unfortunately, up to 75 per cent of the elderly actually don’t respond to vaccination—that is, their immune systems fail to create a defensive response against invading pathogens. What’s more, both its safety and effectiveness are poorly evidenced, particularly in those over the age of 80.

Fast foods make flu jab even less effective

The seasonal flu shot doesn't work very well—it reduces the risk of flu by just 40 per cent at best—and it works even less well if you're eating fast, processed foods.

Additives in the foods, and especially tBHQ (tert-butylhydroquinone), hamper the immune response so it can't fight the cells that have been infected. As the immune system is supposed to work hand-in-glove with the vaccine, the additives make the vaccine itself less effective.

The additives are commonly found in processed and fast foods, such as chips and crackers, and in frozen foods. There's no legal requirement for manufacturers to list tBHQs on the packaging so there's no way of knowing for sure if the food contains them.

Researchers from Michigan State University tested two flu strains, H1N1 and H3N2, on laboratory mice, some of whom were also fed tBHQs, and then monitored their immune responses.

The additive affected the immune system's T cells, which are mainly responsible for fighting infections. It slowed the activation of T cells and reduced their ability to fight infections sooner. It also affected the immune system's ability to 'remember' how to respond to the virus, especially when a new strain was introduced later.

(Source: Michigan State University, April 7, 2019)

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