13:27 08 September 2012
The fight against childhood asthma has found an unlikely ally - a soup with boosted levels of vitamin E.
Scientists have modified a range of commercially available soups with added levels of vitamin E levels with an aim for pregnant women to consume built-in protection against asthma for their children.
Previous research is clear that women who lack vitamin E in their diet give birth to children who have a significantly higher risk of developing asthma by the age of five.
The ingredients the team added were common: sun-dried tomatoes, sunflower oil, beans and lentils.
And now a pilot study is underway that will chart 25 women 12 weeks into their pregnancies. The participants will be given three bowls of vitamin E-enhanced soup (containing the above added ingredients) a week. To measure the change, a different group of 25 women at the same stage of their pregnancies will be given the ordinary soup. Neither group will know which type of soup they are getting.
Further down the line, the babies' first weeks will be analysed to check for signs leading to asthma in the lungs.
Study leader Professor Graham Devereux, from the University of Aberdeen, said: "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."
The soups (which are being produced in collaboration with Scottish food company Baxters) come in three flavours - cream of tomato, lentil and tomato, and three bean and pasta.
The plan to use natural sources of the vitamin rather than supplements is important in the testing stages.
"It could be the vitamin E, it could be the vitamin E in combination with a number of other nutrients. If it works, it works," Prof Devereux added.
Details of the study were revealed at the British Science Festival at the University of Aberdeen.
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