|A Meaty, Salty, Starchy Diet May Impact Chronic Lung Disease
A new study finds that eating mostly meat, refined starches, and sodium may
increase the likelihood of developing chronic respiratory symptoms, including
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Researchers found that individuals
whose diets are rich in meat, refined starches and sodium are 1.43 times more
likely to report new onset of persistent coughs with phlegm than those who consume
a diet high in fruit and soy.
“Understanding all the contributing factors, including the role that diet plays
in the incidence and development of chronic respiratory symptoms will lead to
better prevention and treatment of respiratory diseases,” said David A. Schwartz,
M.D., the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
(NIEHS), the component of the National Institutes of Health, that supported the
study. “We know that cigarette smoking can be a specific cause of COPD, but now
we’re learning that avoiding certain foods may help reduce chronic respiratory
symptoms, both in smokers and non-smokers.”
The results appearing online in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical
Care Medicine analyzed data to assess the usual dietary intake of 52,325
participants. Although the study was conducted within a Singaporean population,
the dietary patterns are reflective of U.S. eating patterns. The study population
consisted of men and women of Chinese ethnicity ranging in ages from 45 to
74 at enrollment.
“These are exceptional data on dietary habits,” said NIEHS researcher Stephanie
London, M.D., lead investigator on the study. “We are fortunate to have access
to high quality dietary data from such a large number of participants to address
the potential links with respiratory health.”
Dr. Mimi Yu, of the University of Minnesota, founder of the Singapore Chinese
Cohort, developed and validated a 165-item quantitative food frequency questionnaire
in this population. The participants were presented with a list of 147 food items
and 18 beverages and asked about the frequency of consumption of each item over
a one-year period. For this paper, researchers used these data to analyze dietary
patterns of the population, rather than simply looking at individual foods or
nutrients as is usually done.
“We were able to identify two distinct food patterns in our population,” said
Dr. London. “what we refer to as the ‘meat-dim sum pattern’ and the ‘vegetable-fruit-soy
The meat-dim sum pattern contained 31 food items, predominantly pork, chicken,
fish, noodle dishes, and preserved foods, as well as 11 snack items. The vegetable-fruit-soy
pattern contained 32 foods, including 23 vegetables, 4 fruit items and five soyfood
The meat dim sum pattern was positively associated with new onset cough with
phlegm after adjusting for age, gender, smoking, education and other factors.
No individual food item could account for the 1.4 fold increase in risk of cough
with phlegm from this dietary pattern. “It is difficult to tease out what is
accounting for the increases in respiratory symptoms related to the meat-dim-sum
diet, and thus using the patterns is useful” said Dr. London.
The researchers explain that there are similarities between the newly identified
Chinese patterns and U.S. dietary patterns. Two primary U.S. patterns have been
consistently described in the research literature. The “Western” pattern, characterized
by red and processed meats, sweets and desserts, French fries, refined grains,
has many similarities to the Chinese meat-dim sum diet; and the “prudent” pattern,
characterized by fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, poultry and whole grains,
resembles the vegetable-fruit-soy diet.
“As researchers, we rarely look at the impact of dietary patterns on health.
We typically look at vitamins and specific foods, but not how overall dietary
patterns affect non-malignant respiratory diseases or symptoms,” said Dr. London. “These
data show us the important contribution that diet can have on the development
of diseases, such as COPD. Choosing foods with less saturated fat, lower in refined
starches and sodium content is probably a good idea.”
Researchers at the National University of Singapore, the University of Minnesota,
the University of California at Davis, and Fox-Chase Cancer Center collaborated
with NIEHS on this study.
Note to Reporters: World COPD Day 2005 will take place on November
16, 2005. World COPD Day is organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive
Lung Disease (GOLD) in collaboration with health care professionals and COPD
patient groups throughout the world. Its aim is to raise awareness about chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and improve COPD care throughout the world.
NIEHS, a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports research to
understand the effects of the environment on human health. For more information
on environmental health topics, please visit our website at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/home.htm.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research
Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal
agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical
research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common
and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.