This is one more reason, if needed, to swap processed foods for whole grains, especially at the start of the flu season.
In a study published on November 15 in the journal Cell Reports (Source 1), researchers have indeed noted the benefits of a diet rich in cereals rather than processed products, in the fight against the flu.
The experiment was conducted on laboratory mice, which were more likely to survive influenza infection when fed grain-based foods.
Originally studying how mammals fought influenza infections, the researchers formed two different dietary groups, revealing this benefit of cereals. One group of mice had a diet mainly based on raw cereals, while the other consumed mainly processed foods, in this case pellets specially formulated for these animals (containing in particular sucrose and maltodextrin, processed carbohydrates).
“Although both [régimes] have equivalent energy densities in proteins, carbohydrates and fats, the grain-based diet includes different ingredients, which leads to minor qualitative differences in macro and micronutrient content”the researchers state in their study, adding that the diet of processed foods used here was equivalent to a diet high in ultra-processed foods in humans.
Increased mortality vs. recovery and regain of lost weight
Both groups of mice were infected with the flu virus, but did not tolerate the infection in the same way. The researchers thus deplored increased mortality in mice that ate processed foods (pellets), and much better recovery in mice that ate raw cereal, untransformed. Pellet-fed mice that survived the flu also failed to regain the weight they had lost due to infection, where grain-fed mice picked it up within 10 days. What undoubtedly help in their speedy recovery.
“To date, the main focus has been on the role of ultra-processed products in [la survenue] obesity and associated cardiometabolic diseases; our study sheds light on how these diet-regulated physiological alterations can increase susceptibility to infectious diseases”, stated the researchers in conclusion.
Highlighting the obviously non-negligible role of the type of food consumed in maintaining physical fitness during an influenza episode, the scientists also invited the world of research to question the diet of laboratory animals, which should perhaps -be more taken into account.