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Eat plant-based diet, avoid dairy products to prevent asthma

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New Delhi, Suffering from asthma? Read this carefully. Following a plant-based diet can help prevent and manage asthma, while dairy products and high-fat foods raise the risk, a new study suggests.

Asthma is a common chronic condition in which the airways become narrow and inflamed–sometimes leading to difficulty with breathing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

“Asthma can make people more vulnerable in the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and this research offers hope that dietary changes could be helpful,” said study researcher Hana Kahleova from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in the US.

For the findings, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, the research team examined the evidence related to diet and asthma and found that certain foods–including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fibre foods–can be beneficial, while others–such as dairy products and foods high in saturated fat–can be harmful.

The researchers highlight a study finding that when compared to a control group, asthma patients who consumed a plant-based diet for eight weeks experienced a greater reduction in use of asthma medication and less severe, less frequent symptoms.

In another study, asthma patients adopted a plant-based diet for a year and saw improvements in vital capacity–a measure of the volume of air patients can expel–and other measures.

The authors suggest that a plant-based diet is beneficial because it has been shown to reduce systemic inflammation, which can exacerbate asthma. Plant-based diets are also high in fibre, which has been positively associated with improvements in lung function.

The researchers also highlight the antioxidants and flavonoids found in plant foods, which may have a protective effect.

The review also found that dairy consumption can raise the risk for asthma and worsen symptoms.

According to the researchers, one 2015 study found that children who consumed the most dairy had higher odds of developing asthma, compared with the children consuming the least.

In another study, children with asthma were placed in either a control group, where they made no dietary changes or in an experimental group where they eliminated dairy and eggs for eight weeks, the researchers said.

After eliminating dairy, the experimental group experienced a 22 per cent improvement in peak expiratory flow rate–a measure of how fast the children were able to exhale–while children in the control group experienced a 0.6 per cent decrease.

High fat intake, consumption of saturated fat, and low fibre intake were also associated with airway inflammation and worsened lung function in asthma patients.

“This groundbreaking research shows that filling our plates with plant-based foods–and avoiding dairy products and other high-fat foods–can be a powerful tool for preventing and managing asthma,” Kahleova said.


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Harsh Vardhan bats for total ban on tobacco, its products

This year’s World No Tobacco Day campaign focuses on protecting children and young people from exploitation by the tobacco and related industry.

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Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi, May 31 : Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on the World Tobacco Day on Sunday said the battle against tobacco was a personal fight for him and he wanted total ban on it and its products.

“The battle against tobacco is a personal fight for me. As an ENT surgeon, I’ve been first-hand witness to how it destroys not just the user, but the entire family. I am a votary for a complete ban on tobacco and its products on the World No Tobacco Day to nip the evil in the bud,” he tweeted.

According to the World Health Organisation, every year the tobacco industry spends over $9 billion to advertise its products. Increasingly, it’s targeting youth with nicotine and tobacco products to replace the 8 million people that its products kill every year.

This year’s World No Tobacco Day campaign focuses on protecting children and young people from exploitation by the tobacco and related industry.

The WHO said even during the global pandemic, the tobacco and nicotine industry persisted by pushing products that limited people’s ability to fight coronavirus and recover from the disease.

The industry offered free branded masks and doorstep delivery during quarantine and lobbied for their products to be listed as ‘essential’. Over 40 million young people, aged 13-15 years, had started to use tobacco, it added.

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COVID-19 patients who undergo surgery at high death risk: Lancet

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Coronavirus Symtoms

London, May 31 : Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have found that patients undergoing surgery after contracting COVID-19 are at greatly increased risk of postoperative death, according to a new global study published in The Lancet journal.

Published in ‘The Lancet’ journal, the global study found that amongst SARS-CoV-2 infected patients who underwent surgery, mortality rates approach those of the sickest patients admitted to intensive care after contracting the virus in the community. In the study, the research team led by the University of Birmingham in the UK examined data for 1,128 patients from 235 hospitals and a total of 24 countries participated, predominantly in Europe, although hospitals in Africa, Asia, and North America also contributed.

The researchers noted that SARS-CoV-2 infected patients who undergo surgery, experience substantially worse postoperative outcomes than would be expected for similar patients who do not have the infection. “We would normally expect mortality for patients having minor or elective surgery to be under one per cent but our study suggests that in SARS-CoV-2 patients these mortality rates are much higher in both minor surgery (16.3 per cent) and elective surgery (18.9 per cent),” said study co-author Aneel Bhangu from the University of Birmingham.

According to the study, the 30-day mortality among these patients was 23.8 per cent. Mortality was disproportionately high across all subgroups, including elective surgery (18.9 per cent), emergency surgery (25.6 per cent), minor surgery such as appendectomy or hernia repair (16.3 per cent), and major surgery such as hip surgery or colon cancer surgery (26.9 per cent).

The study identified that mortality rates were higher in men (28.4 per cent) versus women (18.2 per cent), and in patients aged 70 years or over (33.7 per cent) versus those aged under 70 years (13.9 per cent). In addition to age and sex, risk factors for postoperative death included having severe pre-existing medical problems, undergoing cancer surgery, undergoing major procedures, and undergoing emergency surgery.

According to the researchers, patients undergoing surgery are a vulnerable group at risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure in hospital. They may be particularly susceptible to subsequent pulmonary complications, due to inflammatory and immunosuppressive responses to surgery and mechanical ventilation. The study found that overall in the 30 days following surgery 51 per cent of patients developed a pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, or required unexpected ventilation.

This may explain the high mortality, as most (81.7 per cent) patients who died had experienced pulmonary complications. “Our data suggests that it was the right decision to postpone operations at a time when patients were at risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 in hospital,” said study co-author Dmitri Nepogodiev.

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World No Tobacco Day: Ways to use this lockdown as a catalyst to quit smoking

The global observance of World No Tobacco Day on May 31 presents an opportunity to raise awareness around smoking risks, and to work with smokers to find effective strategies for quitting.

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World No Tobacco Day

New Delhi, May 31 : Tobacco kills more than 1 million people each year in India, according to the World Health Organisation. While no organ is immune to the destructive effects of cigarette smoke, it has one of the worst impacts on lungs.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of respiratory problems for vulnerable populations has increased significantly, leaving smokers more exposed to negative health outcomes. The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s recent Covid-19 State of Smoking Poll surveyed tobacco and nicotine users in countries that quickly imposed strong policies or guidance urging residents to remain at home. The poll evaluated the mental and physical toll of social distancing on smokers globally, many of whom have increased their tobacco intake as a way to cope with pandemic stress.

The survey found that 48 percent of combustible tobacco smokers in India believe that smoking increases the risk of either contracting COVID-19 or becoming seriously ill from it. It also revealed significant concerns about the safety of families, job security, and economic opportunity. These mental and physical stresses are particularly harmful for smokers, who often use tobacco to relieve anxiety.

On the other hand, it is possible that the global crisis will awaken a new commitment to healthy living among those who are motivated to change. 66 percent of Indian smokers surveyed reported that they had considered quitting for health concerns amid the COVID-19 crisis, and 63 percent responded they had actually made a quit attempt. Yet, there still exist many smokers who intend to quit but are uncertain about the best way to do so.

The global observance of World No Tobacco Day on May 31 presents an opportunity to raise awareness around smoking risks, and to work with smokers to find effective strategies for quitting.

Dr. Sree T. Sucharitha, MD Fellow in HIV Medicine and Professor in a private medical college in Chennai, and Medical Director of Association for Harm Reduction Education and Research (AHRER), outlines four practices smokers should adopt during COVID-19 to manage their stress and anxiety in a healthy way.

Fitness and Exercise

We all know that exercise is important in our daily lives, but under the current circumstances, this habit may require extra motivation, as activity is often restricted to the home. During the COVID-19 crisis, tobacco and nicotine users in India have proven more likely than those in other countries to increase their use of healthy coping mechanisms (physical exercise, 64 percent; breathing exercises, 58 percent; meditation, 58 percent; yoga, 55 percent), as per The Foundation’s poll. Practicing mindfulness exercises such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises with guided instructions from experts as in digital apps and videos will help in building core emotional resilience and also may strengthen immunity.

Healthy Diet

A healthy balanced diet, which gives the body the essential vitamins and dietary fibers for better metabolism, is crucial during the pandemic. Proper food habits must be maintained by following a diet plan that includes not only recommended consumption of calories, but also: fruits, vegetables, proteins and dairy products. A healthy diet will ensure that our tissues and cells get proper nutrition to function smoothly. Without proper nutrition, the body is more prone to infectious diseases due to poor immunity.

Take a break, get sleep, and rest

We want to control every aspect of our lives and stay updated on the latest developments, but in situations like these we must learn to accept some lack of control. People should take scheduled breaks and mentally disconnect from the overwhelming news and social media updates about the pandemic. Activities such as playing board games, solving puzzles, or playing with children and pet animals will help you to revitalize for the days ahead. Adequate rest and sleep for 6-8 hours will help minimize the effect of the pandemic on mental wellness.

Connect with people

Humans are indeed social animals. During trying times of uncertainty and fear, it is therefore very important to stay connected with others. Isolation and fear can negatively affect mental health, which can lead to severe anxiety or depression. As per the Foundation’s poll, close to 36 percent of Indian tobacco and nicotine users stated that social distancing has had an adverse effect on their mental health. While a majority of respondents normally turned to tobacco or nicotine products to manage stress (58 percent), 46 percent of respondents have decreased their use during social distancing. Mental health experts have suggested that reducing stress about the lockdowns, spending quality time with family, and indulging in creative activities can help you overcome feelings of depression and vulnerability during this crisis.

(Puja Gupta can be contacted at [email protected])

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