Did you know the number of people using inhalers for asthma has gone up significantly in the last 35 years? Between 1970 and 2000, the number of people suffering from asthma has nearly doubled!
Doctors have been baffled by the dramatic increase. But now, it appears researchers have figured out what is causing all the new cases of asthma.
Before 1970, parents typically gave their children aspirin when they had a fever. However, the aspirin was causing the children to come down with an even worse disease... the sometimes fatal Reyes Syndrome.
Around 1970, doctors began telling the parents to switch to acetaminophen, the common ingredient in Tylenol. That solved the Reyes Syndrome problem. But now researchers have discovered that the acetaminophen is causing asthma.
A huge study, called the Nurses' Health Study, followed 122,000 women for several decades. Each woman was to keep a record of all the drugs she used, as well as the development of any new health problems. The study showed that those women who used acetaminophen regularly have a significantly higher risk of developing asthma than those who never used it.
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In fact, those who used the painkiller more than two weeks out of the month were 63% more likely to acquire the respiratory disease.
Back in May, the New York Times discussed an unpublished study that said just the opposite. According to the Times, the "study, presented at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society in Philadelphia, found that children suffering from respiratory infections - which often lead to asthma - are simply more likely to be given over-the-counter pain relievers. These underlying respiratory infections and the fevers they cause, not the use of pain relievers, are responsible for the increased asthma risk, the authors argue." The authors of the study said "the relationship may be little more than a statistical oversight."
However, the statistics of a third study, this one released in September 2013, showed more than just a "statistical oversight." This major study followed over 20,000 children. In this study, researchers at the University of A Coruna in Spain found that children who receive Tylenol only once per year were at 70% greater risk for asthma. But it gets worse. Those who took Tylenol once a month or more were 540% more likely to have asthma!
The European Journal of Public Health
published this study. The authors said that children "who had even a single dose of Tylenol before their first birthday had a 60% risk of developing asthma."
But it's not just for very young children. Teenagers (13 and 14 year-olds) were 40% more likely to develop asthma if they had taken acetaminophen within the previous 12 months. And if they took it once a month, their risk rose to 250%. I don't call that a "statistical oversight!"
Acetaminophen's toxicity occurs because the drug lowers blood levels of a natural compound called glutathione. Glutathione has an antioxidant effect in the body, particularly in the lungs. When your glutathione levels plummet, your risk of developing a chronic lung disease, such as asthma, goes up significantly.
Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do about it. And they will likely help your asthma, bronchitis, and even emphysema even if Tylenol wasn't the cause. I'll tell you what they are in Monday's Nutrient Insider.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.
K. Wickens, R. Beasley, I. Town, M. Epton, P. Pattemore, T. Ingham, J. Crane and the New Zealand Asthma and Allergy Cohort Study Group, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2011 (41) 399-406.