A leading respiratory physician today advised Australians with asthma to meet the recommended daily calcium intake as new research has found that people with lung conditions such as asthma may be at increased risk of osteoporosis.

The research published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that high doses of a common asthma preventer medicine, anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, may affect how the body deals with calcium. At high doses, it can decrease calcium absorbed from food, increase calcium lost from the kidneys and decrease bone formation.

Dr Janet Rimmer, Director of the National Asthma Council Australia and respiratory physician, said that people with asthma should discuss their asthma regularly with their doctor to work out what doses of their preventer medicine control their asthma. It may be possible to lower their doses and still have effective control of symptoms.

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Moreover, many people with asthma wrongly believe that consuming milk or other dairy products will worsen their asthma. Whilst dairy foods are a major source of calcium in the diet of Australians, 8 in 10 adults do not meet their recommended intake from the dairy food group.

Dr Janet Rimmer, said that dairy products do not trigger asthma symptoms.

“In children with asthma, a runny nose is more likely to be due to allergies or a viral infection like a cold rather than milk in the diet, particularly during this winter season.

“Removing dairy from diet is based on an old wives’ tale as people confuse the coating that milk can leave on the back of the throat with mucus. Studies have shown that these sensations are due to the texture of milk and can be caused by other drinks of the same thickness. There is no evidence that milk increases mucus or triggers asthma symptoms.”

Local and overseas studies suggest that regular intake of dairy in childhood might even reduce the risk of developing asthma.

“Many people with asthma are prescribed preventer medication containing an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid medicine which increases risk of osteoporosis and osteopenia. This makes it especially important for Australians of all ages with asthma to have adequate calcium intake, and having dairy products as part of your diet is a simple way to do this.”

Minimum recommended daily serves from the dairy food group:

Life stage Minimum serves per day
Children 1.5 – 3
Teens (12 – 18) 3.5
Adults (19 – 50) 2.5
Pregnancy (19-50) 2.5
Women over the age of 50 4
Men over the age of 50 2.5
Women over the age of 70 4
Men over the age of 70 3.5

NHMRC (2013) The Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra, Australia.
One serve from the dairy food group is equivalent to 1 cup (250 ml) of milk, 3⁄4 cup (200ml) of yogurt, 2 slices (40g) of cheese or alternatives (1 cup of (250 ml) soy beverage or beverages made from rice or other cereals which contain 100 mg calcium per 100 ml).

Dairy recipe ideas are available at www.legendairy.com.au. Find out more about healthy living at http://www.nationalasthma.org.au/publication/asthma-healthy-living

(Source: National Asthma Council Australia, Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology)