High-fat food worsens asthma symptoms

If you have asthma, fatty foods like butter aren't your best pal. (Photo by Alison Ashton)

If you have asthma, pass up the Happy Meal.

A new study from the University of Newcastle in Australia finds a fatty, caloric fast-food meal makes it harder for asthmatics to breathe. Even worse, the high-fat fare renders albuterol, an inhaler commonly used to relieve asthma symptoms, less effective.

The study involved 40 people with asthma, who were randomly assigned to gobble a 1,000-calorie fast-food meal (burger and hash browns) that was 52% fat or low-fat yogurt that was just 200 calories and 13% fat. It’s the first study to examine the effect of high-fat food on airway inflammation, which is the hallmark of asthma, says researcher Dr. Lisa Wood.

The results raise intriguing questions, including whether the type of fat makes a difference. Could heart-clogging saturated fat also inflame airways? And do unsaturated fats have the same effect? “We expect that saturated fat would be driving the inflammatory response, as this type of fat has been shown to have the strongest inflammatory effects in other studies,” says Wood. “We are exploring the effects of fat quality on fat-induced inflammation in asthma in our future work.”

If follow-up studies confirm the link between fat and symptoms, reducing dietary fat may be a smart–and easy–way to manage asthma.

Avocados, like buttah!


Bacon-Avocado Tartine: A whole mess of issues on one plate. (Photo by Alison Ashton)

Avocados have been on my mind lately, though, of course, I welcome any excuse to eat them.

This current obsession started a few weeks ago with late-night dinner at a swanky pan-Latin eatery in downtown Los Angeles. I ordered “Tortillas Florales with Indian Butter” because I adore handmade corn tortillas under any circumstances.

“What is this Indian butter?” I wondered. Then I was served a plate of pretty handmade tortillas laminated with edible flowers–this was a swanky-danky place, indeed!–with a sidecar of pureed avocado. Of course! Creamy avocado could be considered the New World Indian version of butter (as opposed to Old World East Indian ghee, which is made with…butter). Whatever, it was tasty, and I gobbled it down, though the cynic in me couldn’t help thinking it as a fine example of creative, price-boosting menu writing.

I was at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market last week, searching for ripe avocados for a recipe that needed testing. This being Southern California, ripe fruit of several varieties was plentiful. I picked up a Bacon avocado, which has thin, smooth skin and mellow, exceptionally creamy, even buttery flesh. No, it doesn’t taste like bacon, though you know I had to ask, but is named for the California farmer who developed the variety in the 1950s. Still, the words “bacon” and “avocado” reminded me of my brother’s all-time fave treat (well, next to fried shrimp, anyway): bacon and avocado sandwiches. Fat on fat, what more could you want?

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Bacon-Avocado Tartine
Tartines seemed to be everywhere while I was on a recent trip up to Northern California’s Wine Country. These little open-faced sandwiches are simple to make and visually appealing. This one, inspired by one of my brother’s favorite childhood meals, is a big, ole schizophrenic fat fest, with heart-healthy omega-3 fats from the avocado undermined by artery-clogging fat from the bacon. Aww, well, it’s delicious. I used crunchy pink kosher Redmond Real Salt from Utah but any kind of fancy-pants salt you have on hand will do.
  • 2 slices applewood-smoked bacon
  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 lime wedge
Cook the bacon in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels. Pour off excess fat from pan. Return pan to burner, and increase heat to medium-high. Add bread to pan; cook on 1 side until toasted.Mash avocado with juice of lime wedge. Spread avocado evenly on toasted bread slices. Sprinkle with finishing salt. Tear each bacon slice in half; top each bread slice with 2 bacon halves.

Prep time: 5 mins Cook time: 10 mins Total time: 15 mins Yield: 2 servings