(NaturalNews) Eating meals high in fat may worsen the symptoms of asthma, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Newcastle and presented at the international conference of the American Thoracic Society.
"If these results can be confirmed by further research, this suggests that strategies aimed at reducing dietary fat intake may be useful in managing asthma," researcher Lisa Wood said.
Prior studies have shown that meals high in fat can cause the immune system to produce more of the inflammation-causing compounds that cause the coughing, wheezing and breathing trouble characteristic of asthma attacks, but the connection with the disease had never before been tested directly. In the new study, researchers assigned 40 asthmatic volunteers to eat either a high-fat meal consisting of hamburgers and hash browns or a low-fat meal consisting of yogurt. The high-fat meal contained 1,000 calories, 52 percent of them from fat, while the low-fat meal contained 200 calories, 13 percent of them from fat.
Following the meal, the researchers collected and tested sputum samples from all participants. They found significantly higher levels of inflammation-triggering immune cells known as neutrophils in the sputum of participants who had eaten the high-fat meal. In addition, patients in the high-fat group exhibited less response to an asthma inhaler three or four hours after the meal than patients in the low-fat group did.
The researchers could not determine why a high-fat meal would affect the efficacy of the inhaler, and they are planning further studies to investigate the question.
Rates of asthma in the United States increased 75 percent between 1980 and 1994, with 34.1 million people suffering from the disease by 2007. Some scientists are now suggesting that the high prevalence of the disease in First World countries may be linked to the high-fat diets that prevail in those cultures.