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Children's Health: Healthy diet helps kids ease their wheeze

Greek study suggests Mediterranean foods may ward off asthma and allergies

A Mediterranean diet high in fruit, vegetables and nuts appears to protect children against developing asthma and hay fever.

That was the conclusion of an international research team that studied a group of children in rural Crete, the largest of the Greek islands.

Dr. Leda Chatzi of the University of Crete and her colleagues asked the parents of 690 children about their child’s diet, and any respiratory and allergic symptoms. The children, who were ages seven to 18 years, were also given skin tests for common allergies.

Eighty per cent of the children ate fresh fruit and 68 per cent ate vegetables at least twice a day. Those who ate more grapes, oranges, apples and fresh tomatoes — the main local products in Crete — were less likely to have episodes of wheezing and hay fever.

High consumption of nuts also reduced the risk of wheezing, whereas margarine increased the risk of both wheezing and hay fever. Kids who stuck closely with a Mediterranean diet were less likely to have hay fever, and slightly less likely to have other allergies or wheezing.

The traditional Mediterranean diet features an abundance of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts and cereals, regular use of olive oil, moderate amounts of fish and dairy products (mostly yogurt or cheese), and only small amounts of red meat.

The results parallel other international studies that have found high intake of antioxidants, which are commonly found in fruits and vegetables, may reduce the risk of developing asthma and wheezing symptoms.

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