Eating more than three burgers a week may increase a child’s likelihood of experiencing asthma or wheeziness, whereas a Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables and fish, is likely to cut the risk, a major international study has found.
A Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish can reduce children’s risk of asthma and wheezing, the researchers found.
The German study, of 50,000 children, found that diet did not seem to be associated with common allergies, such as grass or tree pollen, but was a factor in the prevalence of asthma and wheeze.
The positive link between a healthy diet and lower incidence of asthma was easily identifiable, but scientists were more cautious over the negative relationship between a poor diet and the increase in the chances of developing the condition, saying it could be linked other unhealthy habits.
The research examined children from 20 countries around the world, from both affluent and poorer nations, and the link was found to be consistent.
Experts from Germany, Spain and London examined data from 50,000 children aged eight to 12, collected between 1995 and 2005.
Parents were asked about their children’s usual diet and whether they had ever been diagnosed with asthma or if they had suffered wheezing. Almost 30,000 children were tested for allergic reactions using a skin prick test to see if diet directly affected their chance of developing common allergies.
The experts found diet did not increase the risk of allergies to grass and tree pollen but did have an effect on asthma and wheeze.
Children who ate a diet rich in fruit had a low rate of wheeze in both rich and poorer countries, the study found. Meanwhile, a diet high in fish protected children against wheeze in rich countries, while a diet rich in cooked vegetables protected children in poor countries.
The authors, writing in the journal Thorax, said: “In particular, foods rich in vitamin C have been reported to relate to better lung function and fewer asthma symptoms.”