Optimising fibre dosage as asthma therapy

Sep 17 2018

Professor Lisa Wood

University of Newcastle respiratory researchers have launched a new clinical trial to help optimise the anti-inflammatory benefits of soluble fibre supplements, having previously found a significant improvement in asthma symptoms.

Currently under recruitment, the trial will examine differing dosage levels and timing for the dietary intervention. It aims to control airway inflammation and symptoms such as wheezing, with reduced reliance on inhaled preventers and other medications.

“We know that many people with asthma are looking for alternative ways of managing their symptoms, other than only using medications,” lead researcher Professor Lisa Wood, from the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s VIVA program, says.

“This study is vital because it will give us the information that we need to develop this natural therapy into a recommended asthma treatment.”

In their initial study, published in 2017, the researchers showed that a single daily dose of a soluble fibre (inulin) led to changes in the gut microbiome and an increase in beneficial bacteria that can suppress an overactive immune system.

“When we consume soluble fibre, the healthy bacteria in our gut break fibre down to create compounds that travel into the bloodstream and have anti-inflammatory benefits throughout the body,” Professor Wood explains.

“People with poorly controlled asthma symptoms gain most benefit, so they’re the ones we’re targeting this time. The more we know about the effects of dosage levels and timing, the more we can help these people get their asthma under control.”

For the new placebo-controlled cross-over trial, that means giving participants different doses, at different times, throughout the study. In one phase, participants will have a 12-gram oral dose in the morning only, in the other phases they will receive a half dose morning and afternoon, a half dose in the morning, or a placebo.

The study is open to non-smoking adults with asthma, unless pregnant or breastfeeding. It takes 16 weeks to complete and involves periodic visits to the HMRI Building for medical assessment.

Professor Wood adds that a different blend of fibres is being trialed: “Instead of inulin, we’re using an oligosaccharide blend – these are sugar molecules that are naturally found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains”.

Those interested in participating can contact Dr Netsi Negewo on (02) 4042 0762 or netsanet.negewo@newcastle.edu.au.

* The study is being conducted by Professor Lisa Wood, Professor Peter Wark, Dr Netsi Negewo, Dr Bronwyn Berthon and Ms Cherry Thompson. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.