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  • A new study looks at the potential link between a “leaky gut” and asthma risk.
  • People with severe asthma were found to have higher levels of biomarkers that indicate a leaky gut.
  • Researchers are still learning about the health implications of having a leaky gut.

This week, the Society for Endocrinology in the UK announced a new study that looked at a possible link between obesity, the gut, and asthma.

The researchers announced their findings at the organization’s annual conference in Harrogate, England.

The research found that those with a higher body weight also had increased inflammation, worse asthma symptoms and indicators of gut permeability, sometimes known, as having a “leaky gut.”

Researchers are interested in learning more about gut permeability or “leaky gut” and how it impacts the body.

While the intestines are not supposed to be fully impermeable, a healthy gut keeps most of the food and toxins from leaving the intestinal system.

If the delicate lining of the intestine becomes more permeable it may lead to increased inflammation in the gut area as food, toxins or bacteria are able to enter the bloodstream.

There were 98 participants in this initial study, with the majority being women, and all being white and having severe asthma.

The researchers drew blood from participants after they fasted. That allowed the researchers to look for certain biomarkers that would indicate more gut permeability.

They also filled out a questionnaire on asthma symptoms.

Those with a higher body mass index (BMI) were found to have poorly controlled asthma and to be experiencing higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers like lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (LBP) that could indicated a “leaky gut.”

Experts say that although asthma doesn’t often come up in conversations about obesity and the gut, this study’s value is in that it is highlighting just how interconnected the body can be.

“I think this study really nicely summarizes at least two big pandemics, the first being obesity, the second being gut-related issues, and ties that in nicely with how those could be related to asthma or the other way around,” Mallory Bobzien, registered dietician based in Denver, Colorado, told Healthline.

Dr. Ahmet Ergin, an endocrinologist at HCA Florida St. Lucie Hospital in Port St. Lucie, Florida, told Healthline that the study is also valuable because it directly references a medical concern that has not been studied extensively.

“One thing that that was interesting is that leaky gut syndrome is getting more attention from the medical community, from the doctors, because leaky gut is not necessarily an official diagnosis”

Ergin said that what the study calls “therapeutically targeting the gut to reduce gut permeability” could include medicinal or diet changes and that patients need to keep in mind that a so-called “leaky gut” is something many people contend with.

“Nobody has a foolproof gut. It’s about the degree and severity of it,” Ergin said.

More Findings

  • LBP levels were higher in those with obesity as opposed to lower levels in those labeled as overweight or lean.
  • These levels were also higher in people same with poorly controlled asthma as opposed to lower levels in people with well-controlled asthma.

The study is still an early step in understanding the complex relationship between the gut and asthma.

Lead researcher of the project, Cristina Parenti of Nottingham Trent University said in the press release, “Our initial findings show that increased gut permeability is likely to be a factor in worsening asthma symptoms in patients with obesity, so it will be interesting to look at whether dietary interventions can improve symptoms for these patients.”

Research will now continue, with those involved looking to recruit additional participants who are in different BMI ranges and those who have asthma that is not as poorly controlled.

The next stage will also involve looking at how diet can change results for asthma patients. That change in demographics is important to understand the impact of these initial findings, according to experts.

“Since it’s a pilot study, we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with getting excited with the conclusions of this research. But they are very promising and it’s very much in line with what we do know about or what we’ve been learning over, I would say the last decade about gut health.” said Bobzien.

Bobzien said past research on obesity and gut bacteria has shown how interconnected different systems can be within the body.

“We also know that obesity is not a disease in isolation, that obesity also harbors systemic effects. So, I found it very interesting that these researchers took the association between obesity and asthma and decided to look at the gut and say, ‘Could the gut be playing a role in the disease outcomes for asthma and obesity?”

Ergin, meanwhile, said that a broader study would give practitioners a better understanding of how BMI plays into the equation when it comes to factors like age and race

“It is true that there are differences in nationalities and races [when it comes to things like BMI], but from a scientific standpoint I believe this study is pointing…that if patients can lose weight with asthma and then improve their diet, they will still get a benefit. Now, how much benefit they’re gonna get and who’s gonna get the most benefit? Yes, we don’t know that.”