Mediterranean diet, our ally in childhood nasal allergy and asthma.

1 min reading time

The presence of asthma and nasal allergies has increased dramatically in recent decades, particularly in childhood. One of the factors that seems to have led to this increase is diet. The shift to a more Western-style lifestyle with changes in dietary patterns, such as moving away from the Mediterranean diet and reducing fruit and vegetable consumption, appears to influence this relationship.

Several recent studies, conducted in Mediterranean (Greece, Spain) and non-Mediterranean countries reinforce the association between a Mediterranean diet and a reduction in childhood asthma or allergic rhinitis. In our country, and specifically in the rural areas of Crete, in 2001 a study was carried out on 690 children aged 7-18 years which showed that the Mediterranean diet has a protective role in allergic rhinitis, while in wheezing (whistling when breathing) the protective effect it was even bigger.

One of the hypotheses regarding asthma and nutrition claims that antioxidant foods and vitamins are factors that lead to a reduction in the occurrence of asthma and nasal allergies. These are basic elements of the Mediterranean diet and that is why they must be included in the daily diet of our children!

But what does the Mediterranean diet model include:

  • Daily consumption Whole grains and their products (Bread, Toast, unprocessed pasta, brown rice). This group forms the base of the Mediterranean pyramid and is rich in fiber and B vitamins. The relationship that cereal consumption may have with asthma is largely unexplored.
  • Abundant and daily consumption of Fruits and Vegetables. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Research has found that the daily consumption of fruits and vegetables has a protective effect on active asthma (Bakopoulou, 2009).
  • Daily consumption of Olive Oil. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and vitamin E. Replace all fatty substances (cooking, salads) with olive oil. Consume it in moderation as it belongs to the high calorie foods.
  • Consumption of Legumes 2-3 times a week. They are rich in niacin, folate, vitamin B6 and biotin. Cook them with olive oil for a magical, delicious and vitamin-rich dish!
  • Moderate consumption of Milk and Dairy products. Choose 2-3 servings per day. Rich in calcium for strong bones!
  • Moderate consumption of Fish and Poultry. Prefer them 2-3 times a week. They contain proteins and amino acids of high biological value, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, less cholesterol and better fats than red meat. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects and may protect children from allergies.
  • Moderate consumption of Eggs. Give your child an egg 2-3 times a week. There does not seem to be a correlation between egg consumption and a reduction in asthma.
  • Moderate amounts of Nuts. It is rich in good fatty acids (o-3), and magnesium, which has been found by research to protect against asthma. Eat them raw.
  • Reduced consumption of Red Meat and its products. Prefer lean red meat once a week. It is rich in iron, vitamin B12 and saturated fat. Studies that have shown a correlation between meat consumption and asthma are few and far between.
  • Limited consumption of Sweets.  They are high in calories and saturated fat. Prefer homemade sweets.
  • Use less Salt in cooking and avoid using table salt. Excessive sodium intake appears to have a negative effect on asthma symptoms.
  • Limit the consumption of ready-made food. Research in children (13-17 years) showed that increased consumption of fast food was associated with an increased prevalence of adolescent asthma (Huang 2001).

The adoption of a Mediterranean dietary pattern, and especially the consumption of fruits, vegetables and nuts during childhood, is likely to have a protective effect on respiratory allergic diseases. Every case is different so consult health professionals.

Don't forget that the Mediterranean diet has been recognized internationally for the beneficial effects it has on maintaining good health and achieving longevity!

Phaedra Dagoglou

Dietitian-Nutritionist, MSc in Food Science and Technology/Food Safety

Stelina Vassiliadis

Dietitian-Nutritionist, MSc Medical School, University of Glasgow

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