High-fiber diets may offer protection against asthma, according to new research that may partly explain why reductions in fresh fruits and vegetables in Western diets have paralleled rising rates of the allergic lung disease over the past 50 years.
The study, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and led by Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland, suggests those two trends are not coincidental, but causally linked.
In a report on the findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers found that when gut bacteria in laboratory mice digest dietary fiber, such as that contained in fruits and vegetables, they release fatty acids into the bloodstream that affect how the immune system behaves in the lungs.
Past research has shown having a rich and diverse mix of microbes in the gut that digests and ferments fiber helps to prevent cancer
of the intestines, according to a Medical News Today
report on the new study.
"We are now showing for the first time that the influence of gut bacteria extends much further, namely up to the lungs," said lead researcher Benjamin Marsland.
For their study, he and his colleagues tested three groups of lab mice. One group was fed a low-fiber diet, comparable to a Western diet; a second received a standard diet comprising with moderate fiber levels; and a third group was placed on a standard diet enriched with fermentable fibers.
The researchers then exposed the mice to an extract of house dust mites and found that the mice on the low-fiber diet had a much stronger allergic reaction — with more mucus in the lungs — than the mice on standard diet with more fiber. But the mice on the enriched fiber diet showed an even stronger protective effect than the mice on the standard diet.
Marsland said he believes the study provides strong evidence of the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables.
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