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Fruity Vegetables Reduce Childhood Asthma

August 2007 - Research published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology has found that a diet rich in fish and "fruity vegetables" such as tomatoes, aubergines, cucumber, green beans and courgettes can reduce childhood asthma and allergies. A seven-year study of 460 children on the Spanish island of Menorca by Dr Leda Chatzi and colleagues from the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Crete also confirmed earlier findings that a fish-rich diet in pregnancy offers similar protection.

Leda Chatzi explained:

"We believe that this is the first study that has assessed the impact of a child's diet on asthma and allergies and also taken into account the food their mother ate during pregnancy. Because we studied the children from pregnancy to childhood, we were able to include a wide range of elements in our analysis, including maternal diet during pregnancy, breastfeeding, smoking, the mother's health history, parental education and social class."

The mothers of 232 boys and 228 girls were recruited during antenatal classes and completed detailed questionnaires on their children's health, weight, diet and any breathing problems every year until they reached six-and-a-half. Just below nine per cent suffered from some degree of wheezing, including six per cent where this was found to be allergy-related. Skin prick tests were used to check the response of 90 per cent of the children to six common allergens (including grass pollen and cats) and 17 per cent reacted to at least one.

Researchers found that those who consumed more than 40 grams of "fruity vegetables" a day were much less likely to suffer from asthma. Those who consumed more than 60 grams of fish a day also suffered less childhood allergies, similar to protective effects found when their mothers consumed a fish-rich diet during pregnancy. Researchers noted that other fruits and vegetables did not provide the same protection nor did other food groups such as dairy products, meat, poultry and bread.

Leda Chatzi commented:

"After adjusting the results for a wide range of variables, we concluded that the link between symptom-free children and a diet rich in fruity vegetables and fish was statistically significant. The biological mechanisms that underlie the protective affect of these foods are not fully understood, but we believe that the fruity vegetables and fish reduce the inflammation associated with asthma and allergies."

Professor John Warner, journal editor and head of the Department of Paediatrics at Imperial College London added:

"The interesting thing about this study is that it followed a large number of children from the womb to the age of six-and-a-half and incorporated a wide range of dietary, social and health factors. It provides parents with specific advice about the health promotion benefits of including fish and fruity vegetables as part of a balanced diet for both their children and the rest of the family."

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