According to a new review, while dairy products and high-fat foods raise the risk, a plant-based diet can help prevent and manage asthma

According to a new review, while dairy products and high-fat foods raise the risk, a plant-based diet can help prevent and manage asthma. Asthma is a common chronic condition in which the airways become narrow and inflamed–sometimes leading to difficulty with breathing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. The review was published in the journal Nutrition Reviews.

According to the study author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee, “Asthma is a condition that affects more than 25 million Americans, and unfortunately, it can make people more vulnerable in the COVID-19 outbreak. This research offers hope that dietary changes could be helpful.” Researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine examined the evidence related to diet and asthma and found that certain foods–including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fibre foods–can be beneficial, while others–such as dairy products and foods high in saturated fat–can be harmful.

The review authors highlight a study finding that when compared to a control group, asthma patients who consumed a plant-based diet for eight weeks experienced a greater reduction in the use of asthma medication and less severe, less frequent symptoms. In another study, asthma patients adopted a plant-based diet for a year and saw improvements in vital capacity–a measure of the volume of air patients can expel–and other measures. The authors suggest that a plant-based diet is beneficial because it has been shown to reduce systemic inflammation, which can exacerbate asthma. Plant-based diets are also high in fibre, which has been positively associated with improvements in lung function. The researchers also highlight the antioxidants and flavonoids found in plant foods, which may have a protective effect.