A new study will be conducted by researchers at the University of Aberdeen to reveal whether soups enhanced with food that contains vitamin E may help reduce the chance of childhood asthma.

Baxter Food Group in Scotland is working closely in collaboration with the experts to develop 3 soups containing ingredients with high levels of vitamin E. The intention of the authors is to increase the amount of vitamin E pregnant women are consuming. The national average is currently 8mg per day, and the experts say 15mg per day would be more beneficial.

The soups are made with foods that contain high levels of vitamin E, including beans, lentils, wheat-germ, sunflower oil and sun-dried tomatoes. Placebo soups have also been made to look and taste similar to the real ones, but do not contain intensified levels of vitamin E.

The women involved in the study will begin consuming 3 servings of soup per week when they are 12 weeks pregnant, and do the same until they deliver their babies. During the first week of the babies’ lives their lung function will be examined.

Prior studies have shown that low vitamin E diets for pregnant women tend to result in babies being born with a higher chance of asthma by the time they reach 5 years old.

The most recent study, announced today at the British Science Festival, is the first one to use dietary supplementation instead of vitamin tablet supplements, to determine whether increased vitamin E levels can help keep asthma away in children.

Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Aberdeen and Honorary Consultant Physician at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Graham Devereux commented:

“Although far more difficult, it seems more natural to give vitamin E in a natural food more natural to give vitamin E in a natural food form rather than a vitamin E pill because the vitamin E containing foods comprise a complex mix of nutrients that might be critically important, when one considers the foods containing vitamin E, soup seems an obvious intervention.

The ultimate aim of this research is to reduce the prevalence of asthma by an effective, inexpensive, acceptable and safe public health dietary intervention. If successful, the proposed intervention could form the basis of public health dietary advice to pregnant women that could reduce the prevalence of childhood asthma by 15-20% within five years.”

A large number of individuals suffering from the respiratory disorder, significant health risks, and high societal and healthcare costs make asthma a huge public health concern.

In the UK alone, 5-10% of adults and 10-15% of kids have asthma. Experts believe that 5.2 million individuals, 1.1 of whom are kids, receive treatment asthma. The most effective clinical approach used today is to control wheezing, cough, and breathlessness, the 3 main symptoms of the disease. 70% of children with asthma continue to have the problem as adults.

Devereux concluded:

“The potentially much more important strategy of preventing asthma has been recognized and researched but not yet realized. We are launching an initial pilot study to see if pregnant women will take part in such a trial and are happy with the soup intervention. Depending on the outcome we will then launch a much bigger study which we hope will show that vitamin E does indeed reduce the risk of children developing asthma.”

For their next study, which will take place over the course of 12 months, the researchers will include 50 pregnant women from Scotland. If the trial has beneficial outcomes, the experts will apply for funding to support the next large study.

Written by Christine Kearney