EATING plenty of fruit and vegetables protects against asthma, according to new research.
Mice fed a diet high in fibre had less inflamed lungs when exposed to the house dust mites that trigger the condition than those given little of the healthy food.
The researchers said the findings published in Nature Medicine may apply to humans and underline how what we eat can influence immune cell development and disease outside of the gut.
A previous study found asthma and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) could be caused by the same inflammatory reaction. People who suffer from IBS are twice as likely to have asthmatic symptoms as well.
IBS is a common digestive disorder that produces a range of symptoms including cramp, a feeling of bloating, and a change or disruption of bowel habit, such as constipation or diarrhoea.
Dr Benjamin Marsland, of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, said: “Over recent decades, the incidence of allergic asthma has increased in developing countries, while the consumption of dietary fibre has decreased in these countries.”
His team found mice fed a low-fibre diet developed increased lung inflammation in response to dust mites whereas those whose food was enriched with pectin found in the cell walls of plants had reduced allergic airway disease.
He said the work highlights the importance of roughage.