Mediterranean Diet May Protect Against Childhood Asthma

Children who eat lots of fruits, vegetables and nuts have less allergic rhinitis and asthma symptoms

THURSDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Children living on the Greek island of Crete, whose diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts, have fewer symptoms of asthma and other respiratory allergies than children in other populations, according to study findings published online April 5 in Thorax.

Paul Cullinan, M.D., of the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, U.K., and colleagues conducted a study of 700 children aged 7 to 18 years who lived in rural areas of Crete. The parents provided detailed information about their children's diets as well as any allergic and respiratory symptoms.

Four out of five children ate fresh fruit at least twice a day and 68 percent of the children also ate fresh vegetables just as frequently. Consumption of the main local produce -- grapes, oranges, apples and fresh tomatoes -- was associated with protection against wheezing and rhinitis but was not as protective against atopy. There was also an inverse association between nut consumption and wheezing, but margarine intake increased the risk of wheeze and rhinitis.

"The results of this study suggest a beneficial effect of commonly consumed fruits, vegetables and nuts, and of a high adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet during childhood on symptoms of asthma and rhinitis. Diet may explain the relative lack of allergic symptoms in this population," the authors conclude.

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