FRIDAY, Jan. 18, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women who eat a Mediterranean diet rich in fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, dairy products and olive oil may help protect their children against asthma and allergies, new research suggests.
The study, published online this week in Thorax, included 468 mother and child pairs that were followed from pregnancy up to 6.5 years after birth. The researchers collected information on eating habits and on the children's asthma and allergy symptoms.
About 36 percent of the mothers ate a low-quality Mediterranean diet during pregnancy, while the rest ate a high-quality Mediterranean diet. A little more than 13 percent of all the children had persistent wheezing, 17 percent had positive responses to skin test allergens, and almost 6 percent had asthma-like symptoms plus positive skin test results.
The study found that mothers who ate a high-quality Mediterranean diet during pregnancy were significantly more likely to have children free of asthmatic symptoms and allergies than women who ate a low-quality Mediterranean diet.
Pregnant women who ate vegetables more than eight times a week, fish more than three times a week, and legumes more than once a week seemed to protect their children the most from asthma and allergies. Mothers who ate red meat more than three to four times a week seemed to increase their children's risk.
Children's eating habits at the age of 6.5 years seemed to have little effect on their asthma or allergy risk, the study found.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has more about prevention of allergies and asthma in children.