Mediterranean Diet Cuts Asthma Risk in Children

April 6, 2007

2 Min Read
Mediterranean Diet Cuts Asthma Risk in Children

LONDONScientists from the United Kingdom, Spain and Greece investigating ways to curtail development of childhood asthma and allergic rhinitis studied the dietary patterns of children in rural areas of Crete, where such illnesses are rare. Their research revealed adherence to the Mediterranean dietincluding increased intake of fruits, vegetables and nutsresulted in increased protection against these childhood maladies. They published the results of their study April 5, online ahead of print, in Thorax journal.

The study was carried out by the UK National Heart and Lung Institute; the University of Crete; Venezelio General Hospital, Crete; and the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, Barcelona. Researchers performed a cross-sectional survey in 690 children aged 7 to18 years in rural Crete, whose parents completed a questionnaire on their child's respiratory and allergic symptoms, in addition to a 58-item food frequency questionnaire. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet was measured through a scale on 12 dietary items, and children underwent skin prick tests with 10 common aeroallergens.

Survey results showed 80 percent of the children ate fresh fruits at least twice daily, while 68 percent consumed fresh vegetables twice daily. The scientists found intake of grapes, oranges, apples and fresh tomatoes, the main local products in Crete, had no association with atopya hereditary immunoglobulin-related problem that can predispose a child to certain atopic allergic illnessesbut was protective for wheezing and rhinitis. Further results showed high consumption of nuts was inversely associated with wheezing, whereas margarine consumption increased the risk of both wheezing and allergic rhinitis. Overall, a high level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet was protective for allergic rhinitis, with only a modest protection observed for wheezing and atopy.

Researchers concluded commonly consumed fruits, vegetables and nuts, as a part of high adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet during childhood has a beneficial effect on symptoms of asthma and rhinitis. Such a diet may explain the relative lack of allergic symptoms in this Crete population.

This benefit is thought to be linked to the vitamins and antioxidants which [fruits, nuts and vegetables] contain, said Leanne Male, assistant director of research at Asthma UK. Asthma UK is currently funding a number of research projects to further explore this association."


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