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Chicken soup found to keep heart healthy

SINGAPORE (Reuters) — Grandma may have been right about the benefits of chicken soup, researchers in Singapore say.

A study by the National University of Singapore found that chicken extract, a concentrated form of chicken soup, can help keep the heart healthy.

Researchers fed rats bred to develop high-blood pressure with a commercially bottled chicken extract.

The rats had a 40-50 percent reduction in heart swelling and a 60 percent decrease in the thickening of blood vessels over a year compared with the control group, pharmacologist and head researcher Sim Meng Kwoon said.

Sim believes a type of small protein called a peptide, found in human blood and produced by most tissues, is the key to how chicken extracts keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. "It is a naturally occuring peptide. By itself, it is already moderating the health of blood vessels," he said.

While peptides are present in most meat proteins, Sim said, only those found in chicken worked. Pork extract showed virtually no positive effects on the heart and blood vessels.

"When you drink a soup, you're presenting the body with peptides at the concentration of a soup," Sim said. "If you take the meat, it is digested and I do not know if the concentration reaches that critical level."

The findings will be officially announced in a future issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.

The chicken extract reduced heart swelling but not high blood pressure in the rats, offering a potential key to drugs that could benefit human patients whose heart sizes need to be treated without affecting their blood pressure, Sim said.

"There is currently no such compound which has been shown to directly reduce cardiac hypertrophy (heart swelling) without affecting the blood pressure," he said. "Most of the drugs that reduce heart size also reduce blood pressure."

Chicken extract also worked over short periods.

Rats with their hearts strained by surgically constricted blood vessels experienced a 40 percent drop in heart swelling within days with a dose equivalent to 70 ml of chicken extract per day for an adult man.