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Adults with asthma needed for healthy diet study

University of Illinois Chicago researchers are launching a clinical trial that focuses on diet quality and its effect on asthma in adults.

The study — Addressing Quality of Life, Clinical Outcomes, and Mechanisms in Uncontrolled Asthma Following the DASH Dietary Pattern — aims to evaluate if and how a healthy diet can improve asthma. Dr. Jun Ma, the Beth and George Vitoux Professor of Medicine at the UIC department of medicine, is leading the study team.

Asthma has been on the rise in the United States, with 20 million adults reporting having asthma and 62% reporting uncontrolled asthma. A poor-quality diet is a risk factor for asthma, specifically the western diet containing processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Those types of foods cause inflammation, and asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease, Ma explained.

“There are different strategies to manage inflammation, including lifestyle changes, to prevent inflammatory diseases such as asthma,” Ma said.

At the beginning of the study, participants will complete a validated survey designed to evaluate asthma-related quality of life. The survey asks questions about symptoms and daily activities, as well as mental wellbeing related to asthma management. Participants will also complete a lung function test and blood draw to test for inflammatory and other health markers.

Participants with asthma will be randomly assigned to either the control or the intervention group. The control group will receive asthma education. The intervention group also will receive asthma education, but it will be combined with dietary counseling — individually and in a group — from a registered dietitian. The intervention group will be asked to follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, a diet approach that has proven to help those with hypertension manage their health. But the effect of the DASH eating plan for asthma management is unknown, and Ma’s team will conduct the first rigorous clinical trial to address this question.

“We will work with each participant to look at their current diet and look for ways to make changes to be more compatible with the DASH pattern. We will counsel them on how to make action plans, set goals, and problem-solve when they encounter setbacks,” Ma said. Participants will be encouraged to use health tracking tools they like, such as apps or journals, in order to stick to the DASH diet plan.

After 12 months, participants will complete another survey, and their lung function and blood will be tested again.

“Our study is one of the few to look at the DASH pattern through a behavioral-changing intervention in asthma. We hope we can empower patients to adopt and sustain the change for a healthy lifestyle,” Ma said.

She added that they hope to contribute scientific evidence that behavioral treatments should be part of comprehensive care management plans for patients with chronic conditions such as asthma.

Researchers plan to recruit 320 people with asthma age 18 and older for the study, which is named ALOHA and funded in part by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R61HL155160).

Additional researchers for the project are Dr. Sharmilee Nyenhuis and Dr. Patricia Finn of UIC, Dr. Anne Dixon and Matthew Poynter of the University of Vermont, and Lisa Wood of the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Anyone interested in participating in the study should email [email protected] or call 312-515-1094 for more information.

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