Lewis Smith, M.D.

Principal Investigator

Lewis Smith, M.D., knows what it's like to be on the front lines of asthma research. He conducted some of the earliest studies of the newest class of asthma drugs, known as leukotriene modifiers which block the action of leukotrienes, potent asthma-causing chemicals that contribute to airway swelling, constriction of airways and increased mucus production.

Today, Dr. Smith, Principal Investigator of the ACRC Consortium in Illinois, is studying the role of nutrition in asthma. During the network's first study, Dr. Smith led a sub-study on nutrition and asthma that yielded intriguing results that could have important implications for helping to alleviate asthma symptoms. "We never would have been able to do this study without the ACRC network," he says.

"We know there are many things that can make asthma worse, but it's been difficult to identify a single factor that can explain the rise in asthma prevalence and severity," says Dr. Smith, Associate Vice President for Research at Northwestern University in Chicago.

"We do know, however, that our dietary habits have shifted in the last 20 to 30 years, during the time that asthma rates have increased," he notes.

Dr. Smith notes that while some studies have found a relationship between vitamins C and E and improved lung function, studies conducted on diet and asthma have had inconsistent results.

In the ACRC sub-study, Dr. Smith used a food questionnaire to survey asthma patients about their nutrient intake. "We found an association between intake of genistein, a soy protein, and asthma severity.  We intend to use these findings to do a prospective study, in which we will follow asthma patients over time and see if increasing dietary intake of genistein can alter the severity of their asthma," says Dr. Smith, who attended City College of New York (CCNY) undergraduate and received his medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine.