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
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
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.