A study by HMRI respiratory researcher Bronwyn Berthon has pointed to a link between the dietary fibre intake of asthmatics and their lung function and airway inflammation.

“The cross-sectional study revealed associations between dietary intake and asthma outcomes, and was the first study in humans to show that people with severe asthma consumed less fibre and more fat than healthy controls,” Ms Berthon, a PhD student with HMRI’s Vi­rus, Infections/immunity, Vaccines and Asthma (VIVA) program, said.

“We also found that higher fibre intake is related to better lung function and less airway inflammation.

“Australians generally don’t eat enough fibre which is important to keep your digestive system healthy. This study, however, points to a new role for fibre, and has shown that eating a higher fibre diet may be more important for people with asthma.”

The study results are published in Respirology, official journal of the Asian Pacific Society of Respirology. Co-authors were University of Newcastle researchers Dr Lesley MacDonald-Wicks, Professor Peter Gibson and Dr Lisa Wood.

The cohort comprised 137 asthma sufferers and 65 health control participants, within a range of body weights.

“We now need to follow up with a randomised controlled trial to say definitively that if we change their diet it will improve asthma symptoms,” Ms Berthon said.

Good sources of fibre include wholegrain and wholemeal foods, fruit, vegetables and legumes.

The Editor of Respirology, Dr Anne Dixon from the University of Vermont, referenced the Newcastle study in her editorial, noting that changes in diet are likely to be important in the development and progression of airway disease.

“The recent publication by Berthon et al. provides an important perspective on diet and asthma, and points to a way forward for future investigations,” Dr Dixon wrote. “Interventional studies of diet in asthma will be of the utmost importance and dietary composition may be an important factor contributing to poor asthma control.”