A healthy diet including more fruits and vegetables may help people experience lesser asthma symptoms and gain better control of their condition, according to new findings.

The study titled “Associations between dietary scores with asthma symptoms and asthma control in adults” was published in the European Respiratory Journal on July 11. 

Medical research has established diet as a factor in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. But experts still debate whether or not it plays a role in asthma.

“This has resulted in a lack of clear nutritional recommendations for asthma prevention and little guidance for people living with asthma on how to reduce their symptoms through diet,” said lead researcher Dr. Roland Andrianasolo from the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team at Inserm, Inra, and Paris 13 University.

“To address this gap, we wanted to make more detailed and precise assessments of dietary habits and the associations between several dietary scores and asthma symptoms, as well as the level of asthma control.”

The research team analyzed data from a detailed respiratory questionnaire answered by nearly 35,000 French adults. Among them, 28 percent of women and 25 percent of men had at least one asthma symptom. All the participants were asked to report the number of symptoms they experienced over a 12-month period.

After adjusting for factors like smoking and physical activity, it was found a healthier diet could reduce the likelihood of asthma symptoms by 30 percent in men and 20 percent in women.

This diet appeared to be helpful in controlling pre-existing asthma, especially among men. In this group, the likelihood of poorly controlled symptoms was around 60 percent lower in men and 27 percent lower in women.

“A healthy diet, as assessed by the dietary scores we used, is mostly made up of a high intake of fruit, vegetables, and fiber. These have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and are elements in a healthy diet that potentially lower symptoms,” Dr. Andrianasolo said.

On the other hand, he noted the least healthy diets included a high consumption of meat, salt, and sugar. Such foods were linked to inflammation, which could potentially worsen asthma symptoms.

Previously, research had suggested regular consumption of fast food could increase the risk of asthma. The association is believed to be particularly strong among children and teenagers, according to a 2013 study.

“This research adds to the evidence on the importance of a healthy diet in managing asthma and its possible role in helping prevent the onset of asthma in adults,” added Professor Mina Gaga, who is the president of the European Respiratory Society.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 25 million Americans have asthma. The new findings encourage healthcare professionals to discuss the importance of good nutrition for controlling or preventing asthma symptoms. The research team hoped to conduct longer-term studies to solidify the association.