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New approach to preventing asthma under the microscope

Could fruit and vegetables hold the key to a new asthma intervention?

The old saying goes that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Now a University of Southern Queensland PhD student is investigating if a preventative supplement derived from fruit and vegetables could also help keep asthma away for the 235 million people worldwide who suffer from the condition.

Under the supervision of Dr Dean Mills from USQ’s School of Health and Wellbeing, research student Lauren Brook is testing dietary interventions to reduce lung inflammation.

“Asthma is quite prevalent in the general population and the current treatment options don’t cure asthma, they simply mask the symptoms,” Mrs Brook said.

“Most treatment options also have side effects when used long term, which also leads to the asthma sufferer getting a resilience or tolerance to the medication.

“I’m hoping the research I’m conducting will address the issue, not mask it, and offer the ultimate medical goal, which is prevention.”

Mrs Brook said recent research suggested that several nutritional interventions that included anthocyanins had been shown to be effective at reducing a specific phenotype of asthma, called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, without any harmful side effects.

Anthocyanins are a sub class of flavonoids, which are a diverse group of naturally occurring compounds found in fruits and vegetables, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

“It’s currently unknown whether or not anthocyanins could improve lung function and respiratory symptoms in otherwise healthy humans with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction,” Mrs Brook said.

“I suffer from asthma myself and have been theorising about the benefits of medications derived from not only plants, but also food, for the past ten years.

“I have a Diploma of Nursing, a Bachelor of Health Science and a Masters in Human Nutrition, so I’ve been on the path to properly investigate the theory for a while now. My PhD with the University of Southern Queensland is a perfect research match.”

Mrs Brook is currently finalising the initial testing phases of a global questionnaire targeted at asthma sufferers. A 10-week supplement trial is due to begin in 2022.

Anyone suffering from asthma and interested in being part of the initial research questionnaire is invited to contact the researcher at lauren.brook@usq.edu.au 

Lauren Brook.
Research student Lauren Brook is testing dietary interventions to reduce lung inflammation.