Could the Mediterranean Diet Improve Asthma in Children?
When you're the parent of a child with asthma, all you want is for your child to be able to breathe well. The good news is that there are some really effective medications available to treat asthma and keep symptoms under control. Medications such as inhaled steroids are giving this generation's asthma kids a much better quality of life.
We know that an unhealthy diet that results in obesity can increase asthma risk in children.1 But what if what your child ate on a regular basis could reduce symptoms even further? Wouldn't something as natural as the food we eat be a wonderful addition to traditional asthma treatments?
Well, a new clinical trial out of La Trobe University in Greece aimed to prove that a Mediterranean diet might be able to do just that -- reduce airway inflammation and asthma symptoms.
Details of the Study
This was a small study carried out in Athens, Greece, using researchers from both Australia and Greece. Here are the details:2
- 64 children, aged 5 to 12 participated
- 52% were male; 48% were female
- All participants had mild asthma
- Half followed a Mediterranean diet, rich in plant foods and fatty fish
- Other half followed their usual diet
- Participants followed their assigned diet for 6 months
A typical Mediterranean diet includes at least two servings a week of a fatty fish, such as salmon. Oily fishes like salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Those substances are known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Since asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways, researchers theorized that such foods might have a beneficial effect on asthma. However, the use of omega-3s in treating asthma has been somewhat controversial.
Researchers measured pulmonary function in the participants at the start and 6 months later. They used spirometry, and also measured the level of bronchial inflammation using fractional exhaled nitric oxide analysis.3 In addition, they analyzed quality of life and degree of asthma control.
The results of the study were encouraging. At the end of the clinical trial, the researchers found that the fish-eating group did have significant improvements in their bronchial inflammation.
Unfortunately, they did not find any significant difference for spirometry, asthma control or quality of life scores.
Certainly, there are many benefits to eating a healthy diet. This includes easier weight management, better heart health, lower risk of cancer and arthritis. The list goes on. The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest nutritional plans around. Besides fatty fish, this type of diet includes: (4)
- Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low fat dairy products
- Beans, nuts and legumes
- Moderate portions of poultry and limited portions of red meat
The researchers for the study described above recognize that it used a very small sample size of children. They emphasize that more research will be needed to corroborate their findings. But my take is that there is no harm to eating this type of diet, so why not shoot for it?
If your current meal plan for your family is not at all in line with a Mediterranean diet, you don't have to make all the changes at once. Just implement one small change every week or two, but keep moving toward this style of eating. You may just find that your child's asthma improves. But meanwhile, it's also important to keep following his or her Asthma Action Plan, as well as any prescribed medications.
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