It is well known that diet and exercise can improve the quality of life in obese adults but the effect was not previously tested in adults who are of normal weight.
‘Exercise, combined with a healthy diet, could help non-obese patients gain better control of symptoms such as wheezing, chest pain and shortness of breath.’
The research was done by Dr Louise Lindhardt Toennesen (MD, PhD) from Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark. She told the congress: "There is increasing evidence that asthma patients who are obese can benefit from a better diet and increased exercise. We wanted to see if non-obese patients with asthma could also benefit."
Which Lifestyle Change Can Affect Asthma?
Dr Toennesen and her colleagues worked with a group of 149 patients who were randomly assigned to one of four groups.
- They were on a high protein, low glycemic index (low GI) diet. A low GI diet is one that maintains the right levels of sugar in the blood. They were also asked to eat at least six portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
- The participants took part in exercise classes three times a week at hospital. These classes included bursts of high intensity activity designed to raise the heartrate, interspersed with more gentle activity.
- They took part in the exercise classes and followed the diet.
- None of the treatment was given for them.
After 8 weeks 125 people remained in the study.
Researchers questioned patients about their symptoms and about their quality of life, as well as testing their fitness, and the strength and output of their lungs.
Findings of the Study
Although there was no definite improvement in patients' lung function, the combination of diet and exercise improved both symptom control and patients' quality of life, as well as improving their level of fitness.
On average, those who took part in the exercise and followed the diet rated their asthma symptom score 50% better compared to the control group.
Patients who only followed either the exercise programme or the diet programme on average rated their asthma symptom score 30% better compared to the control group.
Dr Toennesen explained: "People with asthma sometimes find exercise challenging and this can lead to an overall deterioration in their fitness. Our study suggests that non-obese asthma patients can safely take part in well-planned, high-intensity exercise. It also shows that exercise combined with a healthy diet can help patients control their asthma symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life."
Dr Toennesen and her colleagues will continue to investigate the effects of diet and exercise on asthma in the longer term. They hope to discover which diet and which activities have the biggest impact, to find out if some patients can benefit more than others, and, ultimately, if lifestyle changes can replace asthma prevention medicine.
- Dr Louise Lindhardt Toennesen et al., Asthma symptoms can be improved by diet and exercise in non-obese patients, European Respiratory Society International Congress (2017).