The World's Largest Research Project - Allergy & Asthma

The World's Largest Research Project - Allergy & Asthma

It's well worthwhile making sure your children eat a healthy diet if you want to protect them from asthma. A new study, the world's largest research project for allergy and asthma shows that the Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, and fish, reduced the chance of developing asthma and wheezing while eating three or more burgers a week increased the risk.

The world's largest research project appears in leading asthma and respiratory disease journal Thorax. It is part of the International Study on Allergies and Asthma in Childhood (ISAAC) a unique, worldwide project set up in 1991 to investigate asthma, rhinitis, and eczema in children because of concern that these conditions were increasing in western and developing countries. ISAAC is now the largest worldwide collaborative research project ever undertaken, involving more than 100 countries and nearly 2 million children and its aim is to develop environmental measures and disease monitoring to reduce the burden of allergic and non-allergic diseases, especially in children in developing countries.

One major interest of ISAAC is whether diet can affect the risk of childhood asthma. In this new study, researchers from the UK, Spain, and Germany, looked at data collected from 50,000 children aged from eight to 12 in 20 different countries between 1995 and 2005. They found that fruit intake was linked to the low prevalence of current wheeze in both affluent and non-affluent countries. Consumption of fish in affluent countries and green vegetables in non-affluent countries was similarly linked to low rates of current wheezing. Overall, more frequent consumption of fruit, vegetables, and fish was linked with a lower lifetime occurrence of asthma, while eating burgers - but not overall meat consumption - was linked to a higher risk of asthma. However, children's' diet did not protect against developing allergies to tree or grass pollen. This is not the first study to show that a healthy diet protects against asthma, but it is an impressive one because it was done on such a large scale.

The Researchers say 'Fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants and other biologically active factors which may contribute to the favorable effect of fruit consumption in asthma. In particular, foods rich in vitamin C have been reported to relate to better lung function and fewer asthma symptoms.' The vital components in the Mediterranean diet for people with asthma are likely carotenoids, vitamin C and vitamin E. Try sweet potato and carrots for carotenoids. An easy way to increase carotenoid intake is to make sweet potato wedges in the oven to replace ordinary chips. You can also mash sweet potato with a carrot for a carotenoid-rich topping for shepherd's pie. Another winter healthy eating tip is to buy plenty of vitamin C-rich clementines - sweet, and easy to peel, making them an ideal snack.


Nagel G et al Effect of diet on asthma and allergic sensitisation in the International Study on Allergies and Asthma in Childhood (ISAAC) Phase Two Thorax 2010;65:516-522

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