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What does feed a cold, starve a fever mean?

This adage's advice predates modern medicine. More than a century ago, people thought that a drop in body temperature caused cold symptoms and that food fought off a cold by raising the internal furnace. Over the years, people figured that once you had a fever, increasing the body's temperature through eating was a bad idea and that fasting would help cool a high internal temperature. Scientists now know that it's wise to feed a cold and a fever - the body's immune system fights germs better when it has good nourishment as fuel.

“Feed a cold, starve a fever” doesn’t mean anything in terms of fighting off illness. It’s an old wives’ tale. Anyone with a cold or a fever (from the flu or any other illness) should drink at least eight glasses of fluid a day, such as water and fruit or vegetable juice. Whether you have a fever or a cold, starving yourself won’t help you get better. As long as you're up for it, you should eat regular meals when you're sick.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
If you remember that old adage, forget it. Whether you have a cold or a fever, you should eat normally (unless normally constitutes the grease-soaked buffet). The important thing for both is to stay hydrated-especially if you have a fever. Lots of fluid will help flush your whole body of infection. And rest, rest, rest-it helps your infection-fighting cells wage a successful battle.

Okay, since you're wondering, it's "starve a fever, feed a cold," just in case it ever comes up in Trivial Pursuit-which is about all it's good for.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.