Lose weight by eating less salt! - Go on! - Try it! - You will feel so much better!
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Thursday, June 28, 2012

What's the best way to prevent asthma, and by extension, prevent deaths from asthma?

Well it was reported in the Telegraph this week that doctors, by way of Dr Dinesh Saralaya, who runs a specialist clinic in Bradford, are saying that 1,000 Asthma deaths a year could be prevented if patients, even those with only mild asthma, would regularly use "their ‘preventer’ inhaler - which contains a low-dose steroid" rather than relying "solely on the ‘reliever’ inhaler when undergoing an attack. " The evidence for this claim appears to be "a poll of 333 people with severe asthma, conducted by Ipsos MORI and funded by drugs firm Novartis". Personally, I would never give much credence to research funded by companies with a financial interest in the results, and in particular to research funded by drug companies hoping to increase the sales and use of their drugs and consequently their company profits. - Would you?

But I have even stronger reasons to regard this report with scepticism. The newspaper report is illustrated with a photo of a child using an inhaler, so I'll consider in particular child sufferers from asthma. - Now I am not a doctor and I have no medical qualifications whatsoever, so if you are wanting a medical opinion you would be better looking elsewhere than on my blog. But like you I do have a brain and I can read. My personal opinion is that the best way to prevent asthma, and to prevent deaths from asthma, is to protect children from a high intake of salt/sodium. My opinion is based on the following research evidence:

In this Telegraph article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2137775/Too-much-television-is-an-asthma-risk.html, about research in Rome, Italy, led by Dr Giuseppe Corbo, despite its misleading title, the crucial finding is, "The study of 20,000 six and seven-year-olds, published in the medical journal Epidemiology, confirmed a strong link with asthma and obesity, but found that salt was the biggest risk. Those with the highest intake of salt were two and a half times more likely to develop asthma." (My emphasis.) I'll bet your brain comes to the same conclusion as mine does, doesn't it? - Protecting children from a high salt diet is the simplest, safest and most effective way to reduce their risk of developing asthma and also from any necessity to take steroid meds as treatment for asthma. (I'm not a big fan of steroid meds, especially if they can be avoided.)

This article, too, supports the wisdom of a low salt intake for children. "According to a new study published by the American Dietetic Association, high-salt foods and snacks are linked to lung changes that trigger asthma symptoms.," and that researchers in Greece found, using questionnaires, "Kids who ate high-salt foods more than three times a week saw their risk of asthma symptoms go up almost five times."

Another drug-free and very important measure to protect children from developing asthma is to avoid dosing children with paracetamol/acetaminophen (aka Tylenol and Calpol). A wealth of statistical data on this webpage http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/health/evidence-mounts-linking-acetaminophen-and-asthma.html?_r=1 suggests a link between acetaminophen and childhood asthma. Also have a read of this article from the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/3233550/Delaying-baby-vaccine-could-cut-asthma.html for another simple measure that "could halve the likelihood of a child developing asthma by the age of seven."

As well as reducing the suffering of many thousands, even of millions, of people, these simple measures could also save about £1 billion a year - nearly one per cent of the NHS entire NHS budget - that is spent on asthma. - What it would not do, of course, is boost the profits of the drug company, Novartis...