For millions of Americans with asthma, breathing problems are a real, everyday risk. Hispanic Americans are more likely to have asthma than other groups of Americans, and researchers have been working to pinpoint why. A new study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society suggests that the reason lies at least in part with diet – inflammatory foods can be linked to symptoms of asthma.
What is asthma?
According to the National Institutes of Health, asthma is a long-term condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways. This causes breathing difficulties and can occur in any age group. Some people with asthma can experience symptoms any day. For others, attacks can be rare. The triggers for asthma symptoms can vary from certain air pollutants like dust and flakes of skin to something as simple as cold air.
Some foods can cause your body to react similarly to an injury. When these inflammatory foods take effect, chronic inflammation can occur – pain, swelling, heat, redness. Chronic inflammation itself can trigger other conditions.
According to the NIH, “high-fat and high-sugar diets are generally anti-inflammatory, while high-fiber diets high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains reduce inflammation.”
Chronic inflammation can cause a variety of health problems, including depression and dementia. Inflammatory diets have been specifically linked to problems such as heart disease. Asthma – a disease characterized by inflammation – could join the ranks.
For this study, the researchers pulled a pool of 12,687 Hispanic adults, 6.8% of whom had asthma, from the Hispanic Community Health Study / Study on Latinos (HCHS / SOL). On two separate occasions, participants were asked about the foods they had eaten the previous day and then took a test to measure how much air they could blow out after taking a deep breath. This test measures lung function and can be used to identify possible symptoms of asthma.
The researchers then used the Dietary Inflammatory Index to evaluate the information and create a “pro-inflammatory” score for each participant. This score allowed them to evaluate the participants’ diets and its effects.
Patients with asthma whose diet contained significant amounts of pro-inflammatory foods were more likely to have asthma symptoms and decreased lung function. People with a healthier diet tended to have better results with lung function.
There are also potential ethnic concerns, but not enough information to draw conclusions. It was found that participants of Puerto Rican descent were more likely than others to be on an inflammatory diet and have asthma.
Take them home
For millions of Americans with asthma, finding ways to relieve symptoms can be important. Careful food choices can limit the likelihood of inflammation and related diseases such as what appears to be asthma.
Sean Marsala is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based health journalist. He loves technology, usually reads, surfs the internet, and explores virtual worlds.