We all know the phrase starve a cold, feed a fever – or is it feed a cold, starve a fever? While many people get confused on the wording, the actual phrase dates back to the mid 1500s and advises starving a fever while feeding a cold.
Regardless of wording, science has found little evidence to support either. One popular but unproven theory is that fasting during a fever helps lower body temperature, while eating plenty of food helps raise it, which aids in fighting off a cold.
The only study suggesting that either claim had any validity was published in the journal Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology in 2002 by a team of Dutch scientists. They found that eating a meal increases a type of immune response that fights off the viruses responsible for colds, while fasting seemed to stimulate an immune response that could help fight off the infections associated with most fevers. But other scientists have said those findings have little merit because the study involved a small number of subjects and has not been replicated. Most doctors, and years of research on cold and flu sufferers, say there is only one tried-and-true treatment: plenty of rest and fluids.