The research is being presented for the first time today, March 27, at the Thoracic Society for Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) Annual Scientific Meeting in Canberra.
“This is the first time anyone has looked at the impact of altering the gut microbiome on asthma control in humans. We’re at the tip of a new paradigm for how diet can be used to treat asthma,” said Professor Peter Gibson, president of TSANZ, speaking from the conference.
“This ground-breaking research offers hope of a viable, complementary treatment for tens of millions of asthmatics around the world struggling to control their asthma with existing medications,” said lead researcher, University of Newcastle’s Professor Lisa Wood.
An estimated 300m people worldwide suffer from asthma, with 250,000 annual deaths attributed to the disease. Australia alone has around 2.4m people living with asthma and nearly half of these are failing to control their disease. Total government costs due to asthma for 1990-2015 were $30.6bn and are projected at $4.0bn for 2016-2019.
The study, conducted by the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Healthy Lungs, gave a number of stable asthmatics daily supplements with inulin, a soluble fibre supplement. Changes in asthma control (ACQ), lung function (FEV1), and gut microbiota were then monitored.
It found that fibre supplements altered the gut microbiome which in turn had a positive effect on asthma control and reduced airway inflammation. The treatment was most effective in people who were poorly controlled at the start of the intervention.
Another study being presented by the group examined the impact of fatty foods on asthma and found that as little as a single meal high in saturated fats worsens inflammation. This results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs, and leads to asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
“For many obese asthmatics, using puffers to control their asthma simply isn’t working and it has doctors baffled,” said Professor Gibson.
“With almost two out of three adult Australians obese or overweight, this is becoming an increasingly pressing issue. These studies - which shed light on how diet can impact asthma by its effect on the gut microbiome and airway inflammation - hold particular significance for this group,” he said.
However, the researchers are keen to emphasise the important messages these studies hold for all Australians.
“More and more we are learning about how our Westernised, highly processed diet is negatively impacting our health. These studies show both how diets high in fat can worsen asthma, and how – conversely – a diet high in soluble fibre can help manage it. It illustrates just how vitally important it is that Australians eat a healthily and how fundamental healthy gut bacteria are to our well being,” said Professor Wood.
The Probiota series is growing, and in October 2017, Singapore will host the first ever Probiota Asia event. Building on the success of the annual global Probiota and Probiota Americas events, Probiota Asia will focus exclusively on this high growth market and the challenges it faces.
Save the date: 11-13 October 2017