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Indian Diet May Be Associated With Lower Risk Of Asthma And Allergy, New Study Suggests

 

NEW YORK--August 15, 1996 A study published by the American Lung Association has found that Indian children living in England whose diet consisted largely of foods from their native country were less likely to have symptoms of asthma and allergy than Indian youngsters who ate a primarily Western diet.

The researchers say they cannot be certain whether the Indian diet itself was responsible for the protective effect or whether children whose families eat mostly Indian foods also have other lifestyle factors that protect against asthma. But study co-author Dr. John Britton noted that the average Indian diet tends to be healthier than the average Western diet, which he said might help explain the findings.

Indian diets tend to contain more vegetables, less meat and fewer additives and packaged and processed foods than the traditional British diet, said Dr. Britton, of the Division of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Nottingham in England. The findings were similar for children eating vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets.

The study appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Lung Association.

Dr. Britton said the researchers viewed the Indian children's diet as an indication of the extent to which they had become Westernized. This new study is further evidence that adoption of an affluent, Western urban lifestyle seems to increase the risk of asthma or allergic disease, he said.

 

  • O.J. Carey, J.B. Cookson, J. Britton, A.E. Tattersfield. The Effect of Lifestyle on Wheeze, Atopy, and Bronchial Hyperreactivity in Asian and White Children. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1996;153:537-540.

The researchers asked parents of 539 Indian children and 308 white children ages 8 to 11 in four schools in the English city of Leicester to complete questionnaires about their children's diets and other lifestyle factors, as well as their history of asthma and wheezing. The children also were given lung-function and allergy tests.

Indian children who ate the most Indian food were least likely to have abnormally sensitive airways, a sign of asthma. The study also found that the more Indian food they ate, the lower their risk of allergy. The results were similar even after the researchers took into account other asthma triggers such as living with dogs and cats or parental smoking. Since only one white child ate an Indian diet, the researchers could not adequately determine the effects of an Indian diet on non-Indian children.

Other studies have also indicated that diet can be an important factor in asthma. Last year, the American Lung Association published a study co-authored by Dr. Britton that found that increased consumption of vitamin C was associated with better lung function, and another study that suggested that vitamin E from foods may have a modest protective effect against the development of asthma in adults. Fresh vegetables and fruits are an important source of both vitamins. In a separate study, Dr. Britton found that people who consumed a diet high in magnesium, found in grains and green vegetables, were less likely to have abnormally sensitive airways.

In the United States, an estimated 13.1 million people have asthma, 4.8 million of them under age 18. For more information on asthma, call your local American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872). The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, formerly The American Review of Respiratory Disease is one of two official journals published by the American Lung Association through its medical section, the American Thoracic Society. Its purpose is to provide pulmonary physicians and researchers with state-of-the-art information on the causes and treatment of lung disease. A second journal, The Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, covers basic pulmonary research.

The American Lung Association fights lung disease. Its programs of education, community service, research and advocacy are supported by donations to Christmas Seals and by other voluntary contributions. Founded in 1904 to combat tuberculosis, the American Lung Association is the oldest voluntary health agency in the United States.

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