The enzyme bromelain, extracted from the juice and stem of the pineapple plant, appears to reduce inflammation associated with asthma.
A study on mice found that the common supplement significantly reduced markers for lung inflammation, researchers told a meeting of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians last weekend.
Dr Eric Secor, NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Connecticut Health Center, tested three groups of mice that were induced with acute asthma : a control group, and two groups treated with different doses of bromelain, either 2mg or 6mg per kg. The bromelain supplement was provided by US-based firm Vital Nutrients.
All mice were treated for eight days. The researcher found that bromelain significantly reduced the total white blood cell count, which increases with onset of asthma, compared to the control group.
The cell markers for inflammatory asthma - eosinophils - were reduced by more than 50 per cent following the supplement, which also appeared to more effective in a higher dose.
Other studies have demonstrated that bromelain significantly reducesinflammation and pain but Dr Secor said he was not aware of any human trials investigating bromelain's action on asthma.
He also noted that he delivered the supplement to the mice by injection rather than orally but he has designed a pilot study for oral use in humans and will begin the submission process for IRB approval and funding early next year.
"We are hopeful that a well-designed, randomized,controlled clinical trial will be able to properly assess bromelain'sefficacy in the management of asthma," he told NutraIngredients.com.
It could offer a breakthrough for the millions of people currently suffering from asthma. Asthma is the most common long term condition in the UK today, according to the National Asthma Campaign, and incidence of the disease is rising in all developed countries, thought by some to be triggered by modern lifestyles, including pollution and hygiene.
In the UK, which has the highest prevalence of severe wheeze in children aged 13-14 years worldwide, 1.4 million children (one in 8) are currently receiving treatment for asthma, compared to one in 13 adults.
Dr Secor's team is currently repeating the experiments and will include data on histology, cytokines, and flow cytometry before submitting the results for publication at the end of the year.