Asthma and Dietary Fats

Image Credit: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi/Pexels

I was entertaining a hypothesis that those suffering from asthma may benefit from a higher fat diet that includes plenty of saturated fat. My reasoning to explore the hypothesis is that there is a layer in the lungs composed of almost entirely saturated fats that helps with the breathing process and clearing out of a variety of bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens. I went online and googled “saturated fat and asthma.”

The first result was “High-fat meals a no-no for asthma patients, researchers find.” Well, it looks like I was wrong… I clicked the link and read on… “Individuals with asthma who consumed a high-fat meal showed increased airway inflammation” I kept reading: “Asthma prevalence has increased dramatically in westernized countries in recent decades, suggesting that environmental factors such as dietary intake may play a role in the onset and development of the disease. Westernized diets are known to be relatively higher in fat than more traditional diets.”

After 5 paragraphs, I got to the study specifics: “Researchers recruited 40 asthmatic subjects who were randomized to receive either a high-fat, high-calorie “food challenge,” consisting of fast food burgers and hash browns containing about 1,000 calories, 52 percent of which were from fat; or a low-fat, low-calorie meal consisting of reduced fat yogurt, containing about 200 calories, and 13 percent fat.”

So… this study didn’t compare high fat to low fat diets. It compared binging on pure junk food to a eating a snack-sized portion of reduced fat yogurt and concluded that dietary fat is the enemy to asthma. Far too often, this is the status quo for research on fats, especially saturated fats.

Don’t get me wrong, there are bad fats out there and wrong ways to eat fat:

– Trans fats

– Any type of damaged fats (fried foods, cooking with polyunsaturated fats, or using refined vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, etc.)

– Consuming large amounts of polyunsaturated fats

– Over-consuming fats AND carbs at the same time.

– Etc.

I kept searching for evidence to support my hypothesis. This was the 2nd Google search result: “Dietary fat and asthma: is there a connection?” (Link)

“The last two decades have seen an increase in the prevalence of asthma, eczema, and allergic rhinitis in developed countries. This increase has been paralleled by a fall in the consumption of saturated fat and an increase in the amount of polyunsaturated fat in the diet. This is due to a reduction in the consumption of animal fat and an increase in the use of margarine and vegetable oils containing ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as linoleic acid. There is also evidence for a decrease in the consumption of oily fish which contain ω-3 PUFAs, such as eicosapentaenoic acid.”

The research article goes on to talk about how asthma is more prevalent in those of HIGHER socio-economic status. They found that non-manual workers consumed significantly more linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated fat). I have to wonder if this could be because people in higher socio-economic classes may be more concerned about health and diet and more likely to listen to the “experts” who have been telling us to avoid saturated fats and eat more polyunsaturated fats, which results in eating things we now know are bad like margarine, Crisco, salad dressings made from refined vegetable oils, snack foods made with soybean oil, etc.

Food for thought,

MK Gus

PS: After doing more research, the following conclusion seems accurate:

Don’t replace natural fats (even if they are saturated) with processed fats.

– A Finnish study found that children who ate the most margarine were more likely to develop asthma compared to healthy kids who ate more butter.

– An Australian study found that children who ate large amounts of margarine and foods fried in polyunsaturated vegetable oils were twice as likely to development asthma.

– Don’t eat trans fats. Trans fats can take the place of saturated fats in the body but fail to perform the necessary roles of saturated fats, which leads to disease.

– Don’t overeat polyunsaturated fat. High levels of polyunsaturated fat in the diet cause inflammation in the body. Keep the balance of omega 6 to omega 3 about equal and no more than 4 to 1. Omega 3’s are found in fatty fish like salmon and omega 6’s are found in some nuts and seeds, flaxseed oil and in high levels in polyunsaturated oils. (The average American consumes a ratio of 16:1 to 25:1 – far too high).

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