Soup for the Scientist's Soul
Stephen Rennard found chicken soup could in fact reduce
inflammation in vitro.
what is the modern scientific method? Aristotle might be glad
to know the process still begins with observation. Humans
are naturally observant creatures and we often notice a correlation
between events, as in "I ate chicken soup and now my cold
feels better." The scientific method allows us to determine
whether correlated events have a causal relationship, as in
"chicken soup alleviates cold symptoms"
In 2000, Dr. Stephen Rennard of the Nebraska Medical Center
in Omaha, NE actually applied the scientific method to the
ages-old observation that chicken soup makes people with colds
Rennard wondered if something in chicken soup might
reduce the upper-respiratory inflammation that causes
such cold-related misery.
first step in the process is to ask the right question. There
are lots of ways chicken soup could potentially ease discomfort.
It could simply help keep you hydrated, it could provide some
vital nutrient, or it could contain a specific curative compound.
But scientists can't test for all of that at once. Rennard,
a professor of medicine and pulmonary specialist, wondered
if something in chicken soup might reduce the upper-respiratory
inflammation that causes such cold-related misery. This narrow
question, a specific angle from which to look at the question
of whether soup cures colds, is called a hypothesis.
could then go about testing his hypothesis through experimentation.
Rennard prepared a number of samples of chicken soup, then
measured the samples' affect on white blood cells called neutrophils,
immune cells that cause congestion. By carefully recording
these observations, Rennard gathered data, numbers he could
then subject to rigorous statistical analysis. This analysis
reveals how persuasive the results of the experiment are.
As Rennard suspected, the soup inhibited the neutrophils'
ability to cause inflammation. Rennard had gathered evidence
that supported his hypothesis.
scientists perform experiments with interesting results, they
write up exactly what they did and what they found in a formal
report. They then submit this report to their peers, who review
and often double-check the results to make sure they all agree
that the experiment is solid science. Once everyone agrees
the study has scientific merit, the report may be published
in a scientific journal. Rennard's chicken soup study, formally
titled "Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In
Vitro," was published in the scientific journal Chest,
in 2000, volume 118, pages 1150-1157.
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