Man flu is not a myth

Time to dish out some sympathy ladies - apparently female hormones give women stronger immune systems

Surveys have shown that up to 30% of men take sick days because of colds and flu, compared with just 22% of women – often dubiously citing ‘man flu’ as the reason they feel so ill.

But man flu may not be a myth after all thanks to research showing that men really are the weaker sex.

Researchers from McGill University in Montreal found that women have a more powerful immune system than men thanks to their hormones.

The study showed that the female sex hormone oestrogen boosts the immune system’s first line of attack against bacteria and other invaders. The finding raises the possibility of using oestrogen-based drugs to shore up the male body’s defences.

The research focused on an enzyme called caspase-12. It raises susceptibility to infection by blocking the inflammation the body uses to fight bacteria and other unwanted bugs.

Researcher Maya Saleh said: ‘These results demonstrate that women have a more powerful inflammatory response than men.’

But Dr Saleh cautioned: ‘A question remains. Will men be amenable to the idea of being treated with an exclusively female hormone?’

It is thought the phenomenon has its roots deep in evolution, with healthy female bodies being key to reproduction. The researcher said: ‘We think that nature devised this strategy to protect the reproductive role ofthe female body, to keep the human race going. It just dropped the mechanism from the male sex.’

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