News / Health

Dietary Fiber May Prevent Asthma

A new study finds that soluble fiber, which comes from fruits and vegetables, may reduce inflammation in the lungs.
A new study finds that soluble fiber, which comes from fruits and vegetables, may reduce inflammation in the lungs.

Related Articles

Jessica Berman
Certain types of dietary fiber may be protective against asthma, a lung disease that until recently was largely unknown in the developing world.  Experts note the incidence of asthma is increasing in less developed countries, as people there shift their eating habits away from high-fiber foods in favor of processed ones.

We get two types of dietary fiber from food - insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber, from foods like whole grains, cucumbers and broccoli, includes so-called roughage, which helps cleanse the bowel.

A new study by researchers in Switzerland suggests that soluble fiber, which comes from fruits and vegetables, and is broken down by microbes in the intestines, may reduce inflammation in the lungs. 

Benjamin Marsland, an immunologist at the University of Lausanne, says that until recently, asthma was virtually unknown in nations where people eat a lot of soluble fiber.

“In some countries, Burkina Faso, for example, dietary fiber intake is very high and there is no development of allergies whereas in westernized countries we have an intake of dietary fiber is low and the allergies have been increasing,” Marsland said.

Gut bacteria break down soluble fiber, which includes pectin from apples, berries and citrus, into short chain fatty acids. Marsland says the fatty acids interact with spongy tissue inside the bones, where protective immune cells are produced, and help quiet immune system overactivity. An overzealous immune reaction can lead to inflammation.

To see whether dietary fiber could influence disease development outside the digestive tract, such as asthma, Marsland and colleagues studied two groups of rodents.  One group of mice had been fed a diet high in soluble fiber for two weeks while the other group was fed a diet low in pectin.

Both groups were then exposed to dust mites, a leading cause of asthma, a condition marked by lung inflammation, narrowing of the airways and wheezing.

Marsland says the mice that ate less soluble fiber had strong allergic reactions to the dust, including the presence of inflammatory compounds in the lungs and constricted airways similar to what’s seen in people.

The mice that consumed food rich in pectin, according to Marsland, had lower levels of the immune cells that are usually elevated in allergic asthma.

“So the mechanism through which diet is helping the lung is the dietary fiber changes the bacteria in our intestinal tract which changes the metabolites in our circulation and this is influencing how our immune cells develop,” he said.

Researchers confirmed their findings by injecting the mice with another short chain fatty acid.  Again, there were fewer inflammatory markers among rodents given the compound.

An article describing a link between soluble fiber and asthma is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid