Parents of children with asthma may have a new weapon to help improve their kids’ condition: new research suggests that a change in diet may decrease the effects of asthma.
Dr. Gabriele Nagel and her associates at the Institute of Epidemiology, Ulm University in Germany performed a meta-analysis of 29 studies in 20 countries involving over 50,000 children aged 8-12 years that showed an association between food choice and the prevalence of wheezing or whistling in the chest within the last 12 months.
Stronger adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern rich in fruits, vegetables and fish was associated with lower prevalence of wheezing in the past 12 months. Furthermore, diets that were high burgers (3 or more burgers per week) were also associated with a 42% increased prevalence of asthma compared to diets that had no burgers or an occasional burger less than once per week on average. Other dietary factors examined, such as overall meat consumption (beyond burgers), and carbonated beverage or juice intake, were not associated with either an increased or decreased prevalence of asthma or wheezing within the past 12 months.
There are some inconsistencies in the results of this study that should be taken into consideration. The participants of this study included children of affluent countries— westernized countries— and non-affluent countries—non-westernized countries. Some of the results for both groups of participants were loosely similar, whereas others differed. The differences in some results could be attributed to factors that were not addressed in the study, such as complete histories of diet, food preparation and body mass index. Researchers also questioned the ability of the parents to accurately recall the foods their children had eaten during the time of study. Despite the limitations of the research, however, the relationship between a Mediterranean-style diet and lower incidence of wheezing was consistent with children of both affluent and non-affluent countries. Other studies that tested the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and asthma have delivered similar results, lending further strength to this study’s findings.
What could this mean for asthma sufferers? Nagel’s study suggests that there may be relatively easy, inexpensive lifestyle changes that can help control asthma. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts and other foods high in healthy, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. Limiting foods high in animal fat and replacing them with Mediterranean-style food choices may help improve the symptoms of asthma. As always, consult a doctor or nutritionist before making a major change in diet.