Eating breakfast may keep colds & flu at bay

Overall knowledge about the psychology of the common cold has greatly increased in recent years and one of the main findings has been the link between stress and susceptibility to colds. Research released during National Science Week also shows that other factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and even eating breakfast, are related to susceptibility to colds. Another area of research has shown that colds and influenza impair performance and change mood. A recent project has investigated both factors influencing susceptibility to colds and the effects of these illnesses on mood and performance.

This ESRC funded research involved two studies at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University. The first study recruited 498 healthy students who were asked to return if they developed an upper respiratory tract infection within six to 96 hours of symptoms developing. 'The 188 participants who developed colds were more likely to drink and smoke than those who remained healthy which confirms previous findings' says Professor Andy Smith, author of the studies. 'Not only that but smokers and participants who had a lot of stress in their lives became ill more quickly than non smokers' he adds.

The second study was based on participants keeping a diary for 10 weeks and recording illness and problems of memory and attention. A hundred volunteers from the community took part and were sub divided into those who reported a single illness and those who reported more than one. 'We found that those who had more than one illness were less likely to eat breakfast and consume alcohol' says Professor Smith. 'Those who developed multiple illnesses had also endured more negative life events in the last 12 months' he adds.

Both studies also showed that volunteers who were ill reported more negative mood, slower response times and more problems sustaining attention. The extent of the performance impairments were not related to symptom severity nor to the fact

Contact: Karen Emerton
Economic & Social Research Council

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