Asthma studies find plant-based diet benefits and big dairy risks

Brittany A. Roston - Mar 27, 2020, 3:00pm CDT
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Asthma studies find plant-based diet benefits and big dairy risks

A new review has looked into the potential effects of different dietary elements on asthma, a common lung condition that can increase one’s odds of developing respiratory infections, including COVID-19. A number of treatments are available on the market to reduce asthma severity, but none of them can prevent the condition entirely. According to the new review, cutting certain foods from your diet may be helpful for managing or even preventing the condition.

Asthma ranges in severity from mild to severe, potentially only causing symptoms from certain ‘triggers,’ whereas other people frequently suffer from breathing troubles that interfere with daily life. Common treatment methods include things like oral steroids and inhalers, but diet modification may also have a beneficial effect.

According to a review out of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, eating a plant-based diet high in foods like vegetables, fruits, and fiber can reduce the severity of asthma in some individuals, enabling them to take fewer medical treatments for the condition. On the flip side, however, the study found that eating foods that are high in saturated fat, as well as dairy, may make asthma worse and increase one’s odds of developing the condition.

One study found asthma symptoms were less severe and medication use decreased after eating a plant-based diet for only 8 weeks; after a year, another study found, some asthma patients saw increases in their lungs’ vital capacity.

Beyond that, one study found that removing dairy from one’s diet for 8 weeks caused a 22-percent improvement in how fast asthmatic children could exhale. Eating low amounts of fiber, high amounts of saturated fat and high levels of fat overall were found to make asthma worse.

The reason may revolve around the effects of diet on inflammation in the body; asthma is a condition that involves inflamed airways, which causes them to constrict and makes it harder for air to pass through. A number of studies have linked plant-based diets, as well as some diets that reduce animal products, with lowered body inflammation, decreasing heart disease and cancer risks.


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