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Keywords:

  • Exercise-induced asthma;
  • asthma;
  • dietary sodium;
  • bronchial responsiveness;
  • exercise-induced bronchoconstriction;
  • airway hyper-responsiveness;
  • alternative treatment;
  • review

Summary

The changes in diet associated with the development of a more affluent lifestyle have been considered one of the environmental factors that may have contributed to the rise in the prevalence of asthma over the past few decades, and dietary sodium has been considered to be a dietary constituent which may be implicated in this phenomenon. The data presented in this review demonstrate that adoption of a low sodium diet for a period of 2–5 weeks may improve lung function and decrease bronchial reactivity in adults with asthma, while sodium loading appears to have a detrimental effect. Similarly, a low sodium diet maintained for 1–2 weeks decreases bronchoconstriction in response to exercise in individuals with asthma. There is no data as to the longer-term effect of a low sodium diet on either the prevalence or severity of asthma or on exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. As a low sodium diet has other beneficial health effects, it can be considered as a therapeutic option for adults with asthma, although it should be considered as an adjunctive intervention to supplement optimal pharmacological management of asthma and not as an alternative. If the relationship between higher sodium intake and increased prevalence and severity of asthma is causal, then there are potential population benefits for asthma as well as cardiovascular disease to be derived from public health measures to reduce sodium consumption.