About 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma — and 180,000 die annually from the chronic inflammatory lung disease. Popular treatments such as inhaled steroids, beta-agonists and other drugs sometimes have adverse side effects for the brain, bone and pancreas. Fortunately, research suggests a natural alternative may be on the horizon — using the goodness of kiwis!

Researchers at South Korea’s Seoul National University administered kiwifruit extract to mice which were later exposed to allergens, then monitored for roughly three weeks. Compared to a control (placebo) group, the kiwi-fed mice enjoyed a 47% decline in asthmatic symptoms – plus a 48% reduction in white blood cell counts (which marshal in excess among asthmatic and allergy patients). Kiwi’s powerful enzyme – actinidin – may play a role. Other research has suggested the pineapple enzyme bromelain may reduce the inflammation associated with asthma.

Whether or not kiwis could someday offer therapeutic potential for humans will require further study. Meanwhile, eating more kiwis as part of a well-rounded, plant-based diet may have other health benefits. For example, one study from the University of Oslo suggested that eating two or three kiwis a day could reduce blood lipids and possibly lower blood clot risk. Another study from the University of Hong Kong found a couple of kiwis a day offered significant relief for chronic constipationsufferers. Two kiwis also offer 190% vitamin C, 75% vitamin K, 20% fiber, 14% potassium, and 11% vitamin E – for just 92 calories.

Published March 1, 2011