The Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, and nuts could prevent children from developing symptoms of allergic rhinitis and asthma according to a study published in the British Medical Journal Thorax.Scientists came to this conclusion after studying 700 children between 7 and 18 years old who lived in rural areas on the Greek island of Crete where the incidence of these conditions is very low.
Parents filled out questionnaires regarding their children's dietary habits and respiratory health. This information was supplemented with allergy tests done on the skin.
The results showed that 80% of the children ate fresh fruit at least two times a day and 68% ate vegetables. The researchers, who found that this type of diet has a "protective effect" against asthma, explained that oranges, apples, grapes, and tomatoes are grown and widely consumed on the island.
They also found that children who ate nuts at least three times a week rarely developed respiratory conditions. Scientists attribute this to the large amount of vitamin E found in nuts. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and it transforms nuts into a preventive agent against asthma and rhinitis.
"Our results show that a high and regular intake of fruits, vegetables, and nuts could protect against the prevalence of symptoms related to allergic rhinitis and asthma," points out one of the concluding paragraphs of the study. They conclude that a diet high in antioxidants could prevent the onset of these allergic diseases among the population.
It's not the first time the Mediterranean diet has been found to have preventive effects on allergic diseases. What's still left to uncover is if this protection is attributed to a single element in the diet, or what is more likely, to a combination of elements. In 2000, an Italian study, undertaken by the Epidemiology Department of the Regional Health Authority in Rome, was published called SIDRIA. It drew a link between the consumption of fresh fruits rich in vitamin C and the reduction of asthma symptoms in children.
In 2003, the Public Health Agency from the region of Lazio, also located in Italy, took a group of 5,257 children between the ages of 6 and 7 and studied the relationship between diet and asthma. A questionnaire was used to analyze how often, over the course of a year, the children consumed foods rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, animal fats, omega-3 fatty acids and others, and the occurrence of symptoms linked to asthma.
In the conclusions, published in the European Respiratory Journal,researchers emphasized that consuming cooked vegetables, tomatoes, fruits, and citrus fruits protected against respiratory problems while consuming bread, butter, or margarine could increase these problems.
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