Can Diet Reduce Asthma Symptoms?

A new study published in the European Respiratory Journal concluded that diets that include high levels of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are correlated with better asthma outcomes. These foods are known to be healthy, with an abundance of scientific evidence pointing to the ways that these foods, and the nutrients contained within them, stave off of health problems – from cardiovascular challenges to cancer to diabetes. This new research provides support for the idea that good nutrition can also improve respiratory health.

The role that diet plays in asthma symptoms and the frequency of asthma symptoms has been a topic of debate in the immunology field. As a result, people living with asthma have not had clear guidance on how they may be able to use their diet to improve their symptoms and quality of life. One of the goals of the study that was published in the European Respiratory Journal was to provide actionable information to patients with asthma on what may be beneficial for them to eat.

The researchers looked at data from 34,776 adults from France who had participated in the NutriNet Sante study, which looked at the relationship between nutrition and health. These data included information on respiratory health, including the frequency of respiratory symptoms, use of emergency medications and the extent to which asthma symptoms interfered with daily routines and activities. Within this data set, 25 percent of the male participants and 28 percent of the female participants displayed at least one asthma-related symptom.

The NutriNet Sante study also provided data related to nutrition. Healthy diets were deemed to be those that included high levels of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, whereas unhealthy diets were deemed to be those high in meat, salt, and sugar. What the research team revealed was that a healthy diet was associated with fewer asthma symptoms and better controlled asthma, and this effect was higher for men than for women.

Men who ate healthy diets were percent 30 less likely to display a symptom of asthma and 60 percent less likely to have uncontrolled asthma than men who ate unhealthy diets. The trend was similar but less significant for women. Compared to women who ate unhealthy diets, women on healthy diets were 20 percent less likely to have asthma symptoms and 27 percent less likely to have uncontrolled asthma.

The researchers suggested that the association between more healthy eating and better asthma outcomes may be at least partially due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics of certain nutritious foods and the proinflammatory properties associated with certain unhealthy foods. While the details on how diet can be used to prevent or control asthma need to be clarified through more research, this new analysis builds on evidence that diets rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains contribute to better health.

Dr. Summit Shah

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