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Prof. Francesca Alessandrini
Helmholtz Munich | ©Petra Nehmeyer

Did you know? A High-Salt Diet Can Trigger Asthma!

Knowledge bites about the impact of high-salt diet on allergic asthma and the driving force of these new insights on personalized medicine. Learn about the latest findings in an interview with Prof. Francesca Alessandrini.
The research results originate from the collaboration of Prof. Francesca Alessandrini, Dr. Carla Harris, Prof. Michael Schloter, and their teams.

“Our new findings shed light onto the link of dietary salt and asthma incidence – a so far controversially discussed topic – and support the potential of dietary recommendations for the prevention of asthma or during its therapy.”

Prof. Francesca Alessandrini, PI at the Institute of Allergy Research - Experimental Allergology, Helmholtz Munich

Prof. Francesca Alessandrini is Principle Investigator at the Institute of Allergy Research - Experimental Allergology, Helmholtz Munich. She focuses on the interaction between the environment, individual susceptibility and allergy development aiming at expanding our knowledge on the basic mechanisms of allergies and providing insights into allergy prevention or treatment.

Why have you investigated the connection of a salty diet and allergic asthma?

FA: It is known that dietary salt intake has an impact – both in a direct and indirect way - on the immune system and consequently it may affect the development of asthma. Besides examining the effects of a high salt diet on lung allergic immune response, in collaboration with Prof. Schloter and team we evaluated its indirect effects on the lung and gut microbiome, which has a crucial role in the development and regulation of inflammation.

Why are only women affected?

FA: The epidemiological study conducted by Dr. Carla Harris, researcher at the Institute of Epidemiology, benefits from observational data obtained from a large study population assessing the prospective effects of habitual dietary behaviors on asthma incidence. The data show clearly that only women are affected. Unfortunately, the study design is not able to determine the underlying reasons for the observed sex-specific association of the dietary intake of sodium and asthma. To answer this question, human intervention trials should be performed, investigating the roles of sex-related differences like steroid hormones, anatomical or other physiological differences.

How do your new findings improve personalized prevention and therapy of asthma?

FA: In our study we identified specific high-salt diet driven changes in gut microbiota accompanied by changes in short chain fatty acids, which represent the main end products of bacterial dietary fiber fermentation, in serum. The specific changes in the microbiome and in short chain fatty acids could serve as biomarkers to identify individuals who might benefit from salt intake reduction for the prevention of asthma or during its therapy.

"The fact that the observed link between dietary salt and asthma is sex-specific is an important step towards personalized medicine."

Prof. Francesca Alessandrini

What was the most surprising discovery?

FA: It is intriguing that the observed association of dietary salt with asthma was sex-specific, and we encourage further studies to investigate potential underlying reasons. This finding is an important step towards personalized medicine. Therapies customized to individual patients hold the promise of exceptional effectiveness – one goal of Helmholtz Munich.

What is the research focus of the Prof. Francesca Alessandrini Lab?

The lab's research is about the influence of both: environmental pollution, especially anthropogenic particles, and irritant gases on lung and skin allergic inflammation and the effects of climate change on pollen-induced lung allergic reactions. Moreover, its activities focus on studying the impact of combining the above listed risk factors with individual susceptibility factors like obesity or with nutrition factors on allergy development. 
Their aim is to identify the effects of said metabolic and / or environmental risk factors on allergic lung and skin diseases.

What is the focus of the Research Group "Allergic Disease Epidemiology"?

The research group aims to investigate how our environment and life-style play a role in the onset and progression of common chronic health problems, with a focus on allergic diseases.

The researchers apply epidemiological statistical modelling techniques to understand the complex interplay of environmental and life-style factors with metabolic and immunological processes, and further, to determine whether their associations with chronic diseases are caused or modified by genetic variants.

About the Research Unit: Comparative Microbiome Analysis

Scientists at the Research Unit Comparative Microbiome Analysis identify key microbiota from the environment, which trigger our health, develop strategies to promote the abundance of those microbiota in urban and indoor environments and analyze consequences for our health.

Latest update: July 2024

Find Out More About Prof. Francesca Alessandrini, Dr. Carla Harris, Prof. Michael Schloter & Connected Research

Prof. Francesca Alessandrini is Principal Investigator at Institute of Allergy Research – Experimental Allergology at Helmholtz Munich.

Contact:  Profile: Prof. Francesca Alessandrini

Dr. Carla Harris is Research Fellow at Allergic Disease Epidemiology at the Institute of Epidemiology at Helmholtz Munich


Prof. Michael Schloter is Head of the Research Unit Comparative Microbiome Analysis at Helmholtz Munich.

Contact:  Profile: Prof. Michael Schloter

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