Drop the burger, Big Gulp, and fries—you might just breathe a little easier. A poor diet may impair lung function and make asthma symptoms worse, suggests new research presented at the 2014 meeting of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand.
Researchers examined the diets of people with and without asthma, assessing the diets based on their potential to cause inflammation in the body. The results: People with less healthy, more inflammatory diets were more likely to have asthma than people with healthier, less inflammatory diets. And among people who already had asthma, those with the worst diets had the worst symptoms.
So how exactly does sugary, greasy fare—the stuff known to cause inflammation in the body—mess with your ability to breathe? “Inflammation occurs as the body tries to protect itself from injury,” says Lisa Wood, PhD, lead researcher and nutritional biochemist at the University of Newcastle. “When we do things like consume excessive saturated fat, our bodies’ immune cells respond to the saturated fatty acids in the same way they would to an invading pathogen—they release pro-inflammatory chemicals—and these can damage organs like the lungs.”
Since these inflammatory chemicals affect most major organs—not just our lungs—it’s no surprise that poor diet can contribute to everything from heart disease to diabetes to rheumatoid arthritisflare-ups. But just as a crummy diet can harm the body, a healthy one can help repair it: A previous study conducted by Dr. Wood found that people on a diet rich in fruits and vegetables had fewerasthma attacks than people eating less produce per day.
Consider this yet another reason to swap out sugary, saturated- and trans-fat laden junk for more fruits, veggies, and nourishing whole foods. Check out Prevention’s 100 Cleanest Packaged Food Awards for grocery store staples you can feel good about eating. Every pick on our list is free of genetically modified ingredients and is low in sugar and sodium.