Asthma is a lung disease that causes the airways in the lungs to narrow. Symptoms include tightness in the chest, wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. In the United States, over 22 million people, including nearly six million children have asthma. Around the world, over 300 million people have asthma and experts believe another 100 million people will develop the disease by the year 2025.
Researchers are trying to determine why the number of asthma cases is increasing so rapidly. The most common factors appear to be changes in living environment or lifestyle, including changes in diet. Two separate research studies published in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association considered the connection between asthma and diet.
Researchers in Greece compared snacking and TV watching or playing video games in adolescents to see if they could find a connection to the development of asthma symptoms. The study included 700 children ages 10 to 12 who were living in or near Athens, Greece. They noted that the risk of a child developing asthma was almost five times higher if the child ate salty snacks more than three times per week. The risk was even higher for children who watch TV or play video games more than two hours every day.
The same research group also noted that children who ate what is known as a “Mediterranean diet” were less likely to develop asthma. The Mediterranean diet includes lots of vegetables, fresh fruits, cereals, and olive oil. These foods provide high levels of beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and other substances that are known to be antioxidants. The researchers concluded that teaching children to have a healthier lifestyle including changes in diet might help control the number of cases of asthma, especially in industrialized areas where snacking on processed foods is more common.
The second study, which was conducted at the University of Aberdeen in the UK, followed up on three aspects of diet that scientists believe could be associated with the development of asthma.