It can inhibit your immune system and make your recovery longer.
The sun dipped low. The cold winter days set in. You got the flu shot to avoid hacking your way through January (or worse). And you had hope. But this year, for some reason it didn’t seem to make a difference: you still fell sick, and are willing to bet your illness proved to be one of your worst bouts yet.
So, is the flu shot a hoax?
Doctors are quick to point out that getting it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get sick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu shot reduces your risk of getting the flu by about 40 to 60 percent but only if the vaccine closely matches the viruses in circulation that year. It’s a bit of a guessing game.
Taking things even further, now it’s been discovered that what you eat could be counteracting the benefits of the flu shot in a weird but real way.
A study done at Michigan State University and funded by the National Institutes of Health has found that a common food preservative alters your immune system’s response to flu vaccines.
Tert-butylhydroquinone, or tBHQ, can be found in cooking oils, frozen meats, frozen fish and processed foods like chips and crackers. It can be there and you don’t even know it- regulations don’t always require that it’s listed as an ingredient on the package. This additive can interrupt the body’s natural response to the flu, and result in a longer recovery for patients.
“Overall, we saw a reduced number of CD8 T cells in the lung and a reduction in the number of CD4 and CD8 T cells that could identify the flu virus in the mice that were exposed to tBHQ,” said Robert Freeborn, a fourth-year doctoral student who led the study with Cheryl Rockwell.
“These mice also had widespread inflammation and mucus production in their lungs. It’s important for the body to be able to recognize a virus and remember how to effectively fight it off,” Freeborn added. “That’s the whole point of vaccines, to spur this memory and produce immunity. TBHQ seems to impair this process.”
The CDC estimates that between 6 and 7 million people caught the flu in the U.S during the 2018-2019 influenza season.