Increased meat intake tied to asthma symptoms

January 17, 2021 in Healthy Eating, Leslie's Featured Content, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers

Increased meat intake tied to asthma symptoms

Substances present in cooked meats are associated with increased wheezing in children, Mount Sinai researchers report.

The study highlights pro-inflammatory compounds called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) as an example of early dietary risk factors that may have health implications for the prevention of inflammatory airway disease.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung condition that causes chest tightness, wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.  Attacks can range from mild to severe and are usually provoked by triggers that irritate the airways such as seasonal allergies, food allergies, cold weather, exercise, and cigarette smoke.

Although usually diagnosed in childhood, asthma can occur at any age.  Risk factors include having a family member with asthma or allergies, being obese, exposure to high levels of allergens such as dust mites during infancy, and exposure to cigarette smoke or chemicals in the workplace.

About the study

The findings suggest that dietary habits established earlier in life may be associated with wheezing and potentially the future development of asthma.

Researchers examined 4,388 children between 2 and 17 years old from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a program of the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s designed to evaluate the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States through interviews and physical examinations.

The researchers used NHANES survey data to evaluate associations between dietary AGE and the frequency of meat consumption and respiratory symptoms.

They found that a higher AGE intake was significantly associated with increased odds of wheezing, including wheezing that disrupted sleep and exercise, and that required prescription medication. Similarly, higher intake of meats (not fish or seafood) was associated with wheeze-disrupted sleep and wheezing that required prescription medication.

The researchers found that higher consumption of dietary AGEs, which are largely derived from eating of non-seafood meats, was associated with increased risk of wheezing in children, regardless of overall diet quality or an established diagnosis of asthma.

Research identifying dietary factors that influence respiratory symptoms in children is important, as these risks are potentially modifiable and can help guide health recommendations.

Leslie’s tips: fruits, vegetables, fish, vitamin E

If you have asthma, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.  Not only is a higher intake of fruits and vegetables linked with a lower risk of developing asthma in the first place, asthma sufferers who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables also tend to have the condition under better control. 

Fruit and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed for healthy lung function.

Omega-3 fats in fish might also help improve asthma symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish are used by the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds that may help reduce lung inflammation.  Aim to eat oily fish – salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, Arctic char and sardines – two times a week.

I also recommend eating more vitamin E rich foods. Vitamin E helps maintain the proper function of immune cells called mast cells. When mast cells react and accumulate in an uncontrolled manner, inflammatory compounds are released which can contribute to asthma.

Good sources of vitamin E include wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, safflower oil, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and peanut butter.

Source: Thorax, December 21, 2020.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.