Flu Shot Controversy

November 2, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The current issue of The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, features a meta-analysis assessing the efficacy of influenza vaccines. The review evaluated 14 observational studies and 17 randomized controlled trials. The conclusions of the summary brought forth several key findings. Among them, the researchers noted that the effectiveness of the vaccines was not consistent across all age groups and varied from season to season. For instance, live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIV) were found most protective among young children aged 6 months to 7 years. On the other hand, the authors commented that, “Evidence for protection in adults aged 65 or older is lacking”. Ultimately, a call for new and improved vaccines is trumpeted as a necessity in order to reduce “influenza-related morbidity and mortality”.

Whether you decide to receive a flu vaccination or not, there are natural ways of protecting yourself from influenza and/or supporting the effects of LAIV. One strategy to consider is the mind-body practice known as Qigong. Three weeks worth of Qigong training followed by at least once weekly practice reduced cold and flu frequency and symptoms in a recent study involving collegiate athletes. Supplementing with 2.5 to 5 grams/day of GOS (galactooligosaccharides), naturally occurring prebiotics, likewise reduced cold and influenza infections (-40%) in university students. Two other natural remedies: Epicor, a nutritional yeast extract, and green tea may also support healthier immune function and reduce influenza risk. The daily dosage of Epicor required for a positive immune response is 500 mg/day. A green tea extract containing 378 mg of catechins and 210 mg of theanine daily recently proved an “effective prophylaxis for influenza infection” in healthcare workers – an at-risk population. Combining select nutritional supplements with vaccinations provides yet another option. Current publications in reputable journals such as the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine & Biology report that concomitant administration of LAIV and a probiotic (Lactobacillus GG) or zinc may improve immune response and lessen the incidence of vaccine-related side effects such as decreased appetite, malaise and muscle pain. All told, this emerging body of evidence can help inform your decision about how to approach this upcoming flu season.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Efficacy and Effectiveness of Influenza Vaccines: (link)

Study 2 – A Pilot Study of Qigong Practice and Upper Respiratory Illness(link)

Study 3 – Galactooligosaccharide Supplementation Reduces Stress-Induced (link)

Study 4 – Modulation of the Fecal Microflora Profile and Immune Function (link)

Study 5 – Antioxidant Bioavailability and Rapid Immune-Modulating Effects (link)

Study 6 – Immunogenic Yeast-Based Fermentate for Cold/Flu-Like Symptoms … (link)

Study 7 – Effects of Green Tea Catechins and Theanine on Preventing Influenza (link)

Study 8 – Green Tea Consumption Is Inversely Associated with the Incidence of (link)

Study 9 – Lactobacillus GG as an Immune Adjuvant for Live Attenuated Influenza (link)

Study 10 – Zinc Supplementation and TNF-α Levels in Vaccinated Cardiac Patients (link)

How Epicor Supports Immune Function

Source: J Med Food. 2011 Sep;14(9):1002-10. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Children's Health, Nutritional Supplements

5 Comments & Updates to “Flu Shot Controversy”

  1. John Connor Says:

    Well balanced for a difficult and contentious subject. Thank you for your objectivety and integrity.

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you for your kind comments, John. Much appreciated!

    Be well!


  3. Ted Hutchinson Says:

    Vitamin D status has a linear association with seasonal infections and lung function in British adults. tells us “Each 10 nmol/l(2.5ng/ml) increase in 25(OH)D was associated with a 7 % lower risk of infection” most UK adults would reduce winter infections significantly if 5000iu/daily vitamin d3 raised 25(OH)D levels to 125~150nmol/l. (50~60ng/ml)

  4. JP Says:

    Hi, Ted.

    Thank you for sharing that link. I agree that optimal Vitamin D status is an excellent way to reduce influenza risk. Here are a few additional links that may be of interest:




    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update: Probiotics may offer a viable alternative …


    Lett Appl Microbiol. 2014 Dec;59(6):565-71.

    Effects of probiotic Lactobacillus brevis KB290 on incidence of influenza infection among schoolchildren: an open-label pilot study.

    We investigated the efficacy of dietary consumption of Lactobacillus brevis KB290 (KB290) against influenza in humans by a preliminary intervention study on elementary schoolchildren, using a commercially available probiotic drink. Subjects were divided into Groups A and B, and an open-label, parallel-group trial was conducted in two 8-week periods at a 1-month interval in winter 2013/2014. Group A was provided with a bottle of the test drink containing KB290 (about 6 billion colony-forming units) every school day in the first period and had no treatment in the second period, and vice versa for Group B. Epidemic influenza was not observed during the first period and only two of 1783 subjects were diagnosed. In the second period, the incidence of influenza in Groups A (no treatment) and B (provided the test drink) was 23·9 and 15·7%, respectively, and the difference was statistically significant (P < 0·001). The reduction in the incidence of influenza by KB290 consumption was especially remarkable in unvaccinated individuals. This is believed to be the first study to show a probiotic food reducing the incidence of influenza in schoolchildren, although further studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of the probiotic strain KB290. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: We demonstrated a reduction in the incidence of influenza in 1089 schoolchildren by continual intake of a probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus brevis KB290 (KB290), isolated from a traditional Japanese pickle 'Suguki'. The effect was especially evident in subjects not inoculated with influenza vaccine. This is believed to be the first report to show reduced incidence of influenza in schoolchildren taking a probiotic food. Further studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of the probiotic strain KB290, which may be useful in the development of potential anti-influenza agents derived from common foods. Be well! JP

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