Asthma sufferers can breathe easier

Asthma is a lung disease where the airways are chronically inflamed, causing coughing, wheezing, a tight chest and breathlessness. According to the Asthma Society of Canada, over three million Canadians suffer from asthma. During an asthma attack, chemicals are released that further inflame and constrict the airways.

Air pollutants such as animal dander, cigarettes and scented products, or stress, temperature changes and exercise may trigger an attack. Though there is no known cure for asthma, it can be controlled through medication and lifestyle changes. Two recent studies show that the antioxidants lycopene, vitamin E and vitamin C may also help asthmatics breathe easier.

Researchers at the University of Washington tested the effects of antioxidants on 17 asthmatic adults. The participants were exposed to ozone during an exercise test and then given an inhalation challenge. In this double-blind study, participants who were given 400 IU of vitamin E and 500 mg of vitamin C suffered less severe airway constriction from the challenge than participants given the placebo only. This indicated to researchers that regular intake of antioxidants could decrease the likelihood of an attack due to air pollutants.

In a related study at Tel-Aviv University in Israel, the antioxidant lycopene was tested for its effects on airway constriction. Twenty patients were given either a placebo or 30 mg per day of lycopene for one week before undergoing exercise and testing sessions. After the tests, 55 per cent of those given lycopene showed significant protection against exercise-induced asthma.

Sources: Arch Environ Health 2001 May-Jun;56(3):242-9; Allergy 2000 Dec;55(12):1184-9; The Super Antioxidants by J Balch, Evans:1998; www.asthma.ca