Association between Diet Quality and Adolescent Wheezing Effect Modification by Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure

Jing Gennie Wang, Elliot Eisenberg, Bian Liu, Corrine Hanson, Sonali Bose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Rationale: Protective effects of a high-quality diet on respiratory health, particularly among youths exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), are unknown. Objectives: To assess if a higher-quality diet is associated with improved respiratory symptoms and lung function among adolescents and if these associations are modified by ETS exposure. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study on 7,026 nonsmoking adolescents of the 2003–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Diet quality was assessed using the Healthy Eating Index-2010 score (HEI-2010), categorized into quintiles. ETS exposure was measured using serum cotinine, dichotomized as high (>2.99 ng/ml) or low (≼2.99 ng/ml). Outcomes included the presence of wheezing and cough symptoms in the past 12 months and, in a subgroup, spirometric lung function. Survey design–adjusted logistic and linear models evaluated associations between diet and 1) respiratory symptoms, and 2) lung function, respectively, and assessed the interaction between HEI-2010 and serum cotinine. Results: Although there were no significant associations between diet quality and respiratory symptoms, there was a significant interaction between HEI-2010 and serum cotinine on wheezing (Pint = 0.011). In models stratified by serum cotinine, adolescents with high serum cotinine and the healthiest diet (fifth quintile HEI-2010) experienced lower wheezing odds (odds ratio, 0.10; 95% confidence interval, 0.02–0.61) than those with the poorest diet (first quintile HEI-2010). In contrast, among adolescents with low serum cotinine, there were no significant differences in any respiratory symptoms between those with the highest compared with the lowest diet quality. Of the subgroup with spirometry data (n = 3,166), there was a trend toward better lung function with improving diet quality, although this did not achieve statistical significance. There was no effect modification by ETS exposure on the relationship between diet quality and lung function. Conclusions: Consuming a higher-quality diet was associated with lower wheezing odds in adolescents with substantial ETS exposure. Although longitudinal studies are needed, public health interventions to improve diet quality in vulnerable, environmentally exposed populations merit consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1328-1337
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • diet
  • environmental tobacco smoke
  • lung function
  • secondhand smoke
  • wheezing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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