Can Fruits and Vegetables Lower Children’s Risk of Asthma Exacerbations?

Children with asthma who follow a diet high in fruits and vegetables may experience a decrease in asthma-related illness and an improvement in lung function, according to new research.

The determination comes after a new study showed that such a diet may be an effective strategy for protecting against systemic inflammation among children with asthma. The research was released in conjunction with ATS 2020 Virtual. 

“Children with asthma are at risk of life-threatening exacerbations commonly triggered by virus infections. In a previous study of adults with asthma, we demonstrated that intervention with a high fruit and vegetable diet reduced the risk of asthma exacerbations,” the researchers wrote.

To conduct this new study, the researchers assessed data on children aged 3 to 11 years with a history of asthma exacerbations and low fruit and vegetable intake (≤3 servings). The children had been randomly assigned to follow either a high fruit and vegetable diet (n=22) or their usual diet (n=25) for 6 months.

At baseline, and again at months 3 and 6, the researchers measured the participants’ lung function (impulse oscillometry), plasma carotenoids (high performance liquid chromatography), and systemic inflammation (plasma TNF-α, C-reactive protein [CRP], and IL-6 by ELISA). 

“Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated from whole blood, RNA was extracted, and gene expression of GPR41/43 was measured by qPCR,” the authors wrote. “Nuclear proteins were also extracted from PBMCs and HDAC enzyme activity was measured by fluorescence assays.”

The participants who followed a diet high in fruits and vegetables exhibited an increase in plasma carotenoids. According to the researchers, this finding agreed with self-reported fruit and vegetable intake. 

Significantly fewer participants from the high fruit and vegetable diet group (63.6%) experienced 2 or more asthma exacerbations/respiratory infections during the trial compared with those from the control group (88.0%).

The participants who had followed the high fruit and vegetable diet also experienced an improvement in lung function, as indicated by a decrease in airway resistance, as well as an increase in airway reactance.

Meanwhile, the participants who continued their usual diet displayed an increase in both plasma CRP and HDAC enzyme activity, as well as a decrease in GRP41 gene expression. 

—Colleen Murphy


Wood LG, Berthon BS, McLoughlin RL, et al. A fruit and vegetable intervention in children with asthma improved lung function and decreased asthma related illness. Paper released in conjunction with: ATS 2020 Virtual; August 5-10, 2020.!/8998/presentation/8224