Prebiotics led to improvements in exercise-induced asthma in testing

Improving healthy gut bacteria by consuming foods rich in so-called prebiotic compounds could reduce the incidence of exercise-induced asthma, according to scientists from Nottingham Trent University, who have published findings in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Prebiotics have been shown in previous trials to promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, helping to maintain a healthy digestive system. They are found in foods including oats, bananas, onions and Jerusalem artichokes.

However, for their recent double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Dr Neil Williams and his colleagues at the department of sport science and the Sport, Health and Performance Enhancement (SHAPE) research centre tested a prebiotic supplement called Bimuno-galactooligosaccharide (B-GOS) for its effects on asthma severity.

Subjects were given the prebiotic supplement for three weeks, followed by a two-week washout period when they took no treatment. They then took a placebo for a further three weeks.

They also underwent a hyperventilation test – which induces the symptoms of exercise-induced asthma – as well as tests of pulmonary function.

Results revealed that the prebiotic led to significant improvements in exercise-induced asthma, compared with the placebo.

So why did it work? Dr Williams suspects it’s linked to the promotion of gut bacteria, shown in other trials to lessen the risk of allergies.

“Importantly, the level of improvement in lung function that appears after the prebiotic is perceivable by the patient and therefore potentially clinically relevant,” he said.

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