Individuals with asthma who ate a high-fat meal showed increased airway inflammation several hours later. The high-fat meal also inhibited their response to asthma medication, in this case Ventolin (albuterol):
A High-Fat Challenge Increases Airway Inflammation And Impairs Bronchodilator Recovery In Asthma, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, May 2011
“CONCLUSION: A high-fat meal augments neutrophilic airway inflammation, with the effect dependent on the type of fat* consumed. A high-fat meal also suppresses bronchodilator recovery in asthma. Modifying dietary fat intake may be useful in asthma.”
* Saturated fat was particularly disruptive. From the press release:1
“Subjects who had consumed the high-fat meal had a marked increase in airway neutrophils and TLR4 mRNA gene expression. TLR4 is a cell surface receptor that is activated by nutritional fatty acids: TLR4 ‘senses’ the presence of saturated fatty acids, and prompts the cell to respond to the fatty acids as if they were an invading pathogen, releasing inflammatory mediators.”
Lead author, Dr. Lisa Wood:
“This is the first study to show that a high fat meal increases airway inflammation, so this is a very important finding.”
This is a systemic effect of consuming lots of meat, dairy, and other high-fat, especially high-saturated-fat foods. Systemic because the fat gets digested, absorbed, and enters the bloodstream. There is also a local effect. Eating lots of fat and oil (including vegetable oils, e.g. olive oil) will relax the LES, the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, a ring of muscle at the bottom the the esophagus where it meets the stomach. Fat also delays stomach emptying. Both of these will increase risk of reflux, or GERD. And GERD contributes to asthma.
1 High-Fat Meals a No-No For Asthma Patients, Press release for the study which was presented at the 2010 American Thoracic Society annual meeting.