People who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables could be less likely to get asthma and suffer less if they already have it.
Symptoms of the lung condition are up to 30 per cent less likely to appear in adults who eat a healthy diet, a study has found.
Experts say the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of fruit and veg protect people from the common breathing problem.
Eating more meat and salty or sugary foods could make asthma harder to control, the researchers said.
Around one in 12 people have asthma – 5.4 million in the UK and 25 million in the US – which can make it hard to breathe because it causes tubes in the lung to swell up.
The French scientists hope their findings will help people to control symptoms of the chronic condition.
Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties which could protect against asthma, according to research
Asthma, which is caused by inflammation – or swelling – inside the lungs, could be helped by the anti-inflammatory properties of fruit, vegetables and grains.
Scientists studied nearly 35,000 people to compare their diets to how severe their asthma was.
They found men who eat a healthy diet have a 30 per cent lower chance of experiencing the symptoms of asthma, while women’s risk is slashed by 20 per cent.
And men who already have asthma are 60 per cent less likely to have badly controlled symptoms if they eat healthily, while eating well reduces asthmatic women’s symptoms by 27 per cent.
Typical effects of asthma include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing. An asthma attack happens when symptoms suddenly get worse.
Eating well could prevent asthma symptoms from developing
The researchers, from Paris 13 University and French health institutes INSERM and INRA say not enough research has been done into the effect of diets on asthma.
And they say their findings suggest eating well could prevent people from getting asthma in the first place.
Lead researcher Dr Roland Andrianasolo said: ‘Our results strongly encourage the promotion of healthy diets for preventing asthma symptoms and managing the disease.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.
It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.
The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.
Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.
Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.
Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.
If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.
Fruit and vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties
‘A healthy diet is mostly made up of a high intake of fruit, vegetables and fibre.
‘These have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and are elements in a healthy diet that potentially lower symptoms.
‘In contrast, the least healthy diets include high consumption of meat, salt and sugar, and these are elements with pro-inflammatory capacities that may potentially worsen symptoms of asthma.’
How the research was carried out
A total of 34,776 French adults were studied using questionnaires – 28 per cent of the women and 25 per cent of the men had asthma.
To assess the effects of asthma people were asked to answer questions about their symptoms over a one-month period.
People’s diet was measured using a daily food diary from which researchers randomly selected three days per person.
Diets high in fruit, vegetable and whole grain cereal are considered healthy, while meat, salt and sugar are less healthy.
The researchers took into account other factors known to be linked to asthma, such as smoking and exercise.
Dr Andrianasolo added: ‘Compared to other chronic diseases, the role of diet in asthma is still debated.
‘This has resulted in a lack of clear nutritional recommendations for asthma prevention, and little guidance for people living with asthma on how to reduce their symptoms through diet.’
The team’s findings were published in the European Respiratory Journal.