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Your Environment. Your Health.

Johns Hopkins University

Mechanisms of Asthma-Dietary Interventions against Environmental Triggers

Johns Hopkins University
Gregory B. Diette, M.D.

Project Description:


Child Health Specialist: Nadia Hansel, M.D.
Allergy and immunology, asthma,

Environmental Exposures

Airborne pollutants: particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), allergens

Primary Health Outcomes


This center studies how diet influences asthmatic response to indoor and outdoor pollutants and triggers. Researchers are testing whether eating a poor-quality diet may increase asthma severity among children. They are also studying whether a diet of foods with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties increases the body’s ability to respond to stressors while decreasing susceptibility to pollutant and allergen exposures. As part of the Center, a cohort of 200 inner-city Baltimore children with asthma, ages 5 to 12, are participating in a study to identify how diet may affect their susceptibility to asthmatic triggers from in-home pollutants (particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide).  

Asthma disproportionately affects inner city African-Americans, and high levels of pollutants and allergens in inner-city homes and neighborhoods may contribute to this disparity. Researchers at this center focus on children living in the inner city of Baltimore, studying how certain foods cause asthmatic responses and whether certain foods make a person’s asthma better or worse. The researchers want to develop practical advice on what foods children could eat to better control their asthma.

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Project 1: Urban dietary effects on the asthmatic response to pollutants

Project leaders: Gregory B. Diette, M.D., Nadia N. Hansel, M.D. ,

Researchers are studying 200 inner city Baltimore children with asthma to identify how diet may affect their susceptibility to asthmatic triggers from pollutants in their homes. The researchers are also looking to identify barriers and other factors that affect implementing dietary and environmental modifications in inner-city homes of children with asthma.

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Project 2: Dietary interventions in asthma treatment

Project leaders: Elizabeth C. Matsui, M.D., Meredith O. McCormack, M.D. ,

This project focuses on Baltimore adults with asthma to examine how eating either broccoli sprouts or a special low-saturated fat, anti-inflammatory diet affects a person’s response to asthmatic triggers. Findings from these studies will lend insight into the role of diet in increasing susceptibility to allergen exposure, potential mechanisms by which diet may influence allergic asthma, and the potential for treating allergic asthma with dietary interventions in both adults and children.

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Project 3: Dissecting the diet-asthma relationship in mice models of asthma

Project leader: Shyam Biswal, Ph.D.

Researchers use mice to study the biological effects of different diets on asthma. The mice are fed either a normal diet or a modified Mediterranean-type diet and allow researchers to compare diets with low amounts of the omega 3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), high DHA, and a high fat diet. This project will help illustrate the mechanisms by which diet affects susceptibility and asthma severity.

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Community Outreach and Translation Core

Core Leader: Cynthia S. Rand, Ph.D.

The Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) develops, demonstrates, and evaluates strategies to translate and apply the scientific findings of the center projects. The focus is on the interaction between environmental exposures, family diet, and child asthma outcomes with translation of information into formats most useful for the public, policy makers, and clinical professionals to use to protect the health of children.

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