Can Embracing a Plant-Based Diet Reduce Asthma Risk in Children?

Key Takeaways:

  • Compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs) found in meat may be linked to wheezing and potential respiratory disorders in children. These compounds arise when meat is cooked at high temperatures.
  • The study shows a correlation, not causation, between higher consumption of AGEs and increased risk of respiratory disorders. This is true for processed and red meats, as well as poultry, but not for seafood.
  • The research was conducted on almost 4,400 U.S. children and showed that increased AGEs were related to an 18% rise in wheezing occurrences, a 26% rise in sleep disturbances due to wheezing, and a 34% rise in exercise-induced wheezing.
  • Despite the correlation, recommending dietary changes is considered premature. Further research is required to confirm these findings and understand the impact of other environmental factors.
  • Limiting meat consumption, particularly red meat, may be beneficial to both public health and environmental sustainability, regardless of the potential link between meat consumption and respiratory conditions.

Recent research suggests that certain compounds found in meat might initiate wheezing in some children, potentially leading to asthma or other respiratory disorders.

The Sinister Role of Compounds in Meat

These compounds, known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), emerge when meat is cooked at high temperatures during grilling, frying, or roasting. AGEs bind to cells within the lungs, leading to inflammation and a response from the immune system that can result in wheezing, according to the authors of the study.

“The first sign of airway disease, particularly asthma, is often childhood wheezing,” expressed the study’s head researcher, a pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine doctor at Ohio State University in Columbus.

“It appears that a diet that is high in non-seafood meat may potentially harm children’s airways and lung health.” she continued.

Correlation, not Causation

It is important to note that the study can’t conclusively confirm that consuming meat leads to wheezing and its potential repercussions, only that there seems to be a relationship present.

“This correlation holds true for processed meats like sausages and salami, red meats like beef and pork, and poultry. However, the same is not true for seafood like fish and shellfish,” she added.

Nonetheless, recommending dietary changes is premature before additional research is accomplished.

“Our research contributes to a rising collection of works suggesting that frequent consumption of meats and related pro-inflammatory compounds may have negative impacts on lung health,” she highlighted.

Delving Deep into the Research

In the study, the impact of AGEs on almost 4,400 U.S. children (aged 2 to 17) who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2006 was examined. The researchers calculated how much AGE was consumed and analysed reports of respiratory symptoms.

They discovered that 13% of the children had experienced wheezing in the past year. Higher consumption of AGEs was linked with an 18% rise in the chances of wheezing, after considering factors like age, sex, race/ethnicity, household income, and weight.

Increased AGE consumption was also linked with a 26% rise in disturbance in sleep due to wheezing, a 34% rise in exercise-induced wheezing, and a 35% higher need for medication to treat wheezing.

From Possibility to Plausibility

One expert believes it’s plausible that meat consumption could harm the lungs. “While this has potential links to the onset of asthma, it is still far from being confirmed. However, there is indeed a biological plausibility signal, which should be noted,” commented a professor of pediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London, in the UK.

However, he emphasized that many other factors can affect the development of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

“Many factors among these families may be linked to other environmental influencers. However, this finding is indeed interesting, even though it’s far from being a directive to reduce meat consumption for asthma prevention, which is absolutely not the case right now.”

However, even amid the uncertainty, there are other compelling reasons to limit adult and children’s meat consumption.

“It’s clear that the environmental sustainability of current red meat consumption levels is questionable. This fact should make us reconsider and potentially reduce our red meat intake. I believe, overall consumption could be lessened without any adverse impact on public health,” he concluded.

Further exploration

Discover more about asthma at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.


Greetings from the trails and tracks! I'm Tim, but most folks know me as TJ. I've spent the last 5 years diving deep into the world of content writing, with a particular penchant for nutrition and the intricate science behind it. Every bite we take, every nutrient we consume, tells a unique story – and I'm here to unravel it for you.Beyond my keyboard, you'll often find me on a winding hiking trail or pushing my limits on a long-distance run. These pursuits not only keep me fit but constantly remind me of the vital role nutrition plays in fueling our passions and adventures.Through my writings, I aim to bridge the gap between complex nutritional science and everyday eating habits. Whether you're looking for the latest research updates, practical diet tips, or stories from the running track, I'm committed to serving you content that's as engaging as it is enlightening.So, lace up your shoes, grab a healthy snack, and join me in this exploration of food, science, and the great outdoors. Together, we'll journey towards better health and incredible experiences!
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