Living in Crete | Asthma in Kids Study

Brits in Crete Forum has recently had several questions about Asthma and related topics when expatriates are spending their life in Crete. Diet and climate have a major part to play in the better quality of life in the Mediterranean, compared to the damper and colder climes of Northern Europe.

In the interest of the debate, Brits in Crete Blog carries here the September 11th announcement on the contribution of how 'Fruity vegetables' and fish reduce asthma and allergies. The study's results are from a 7-years of research into children just published by Blackwell Publishing. The study's lead author is none other than respected international researcher, Dr Leda Chatzi of the University of Crete who concludes from the study of 460 Spanish kids that giving them a diet, rich in fish and “fruity vegetables” can reduce asthma and allergies. (The results are published in the September issue of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.)

The findings also reinforce the researchers’ earlier findings that a fish-rich diet in pregnancy can help to protect children from asthma and allergies.

“We believe that this is the first study that has assessed the impact of a child’s diet on asthma and allergies and also taken into account the food their mother ate during pregnancy” says Dr Leda Chatzi from the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Crete, Greece.

“Because we studied the children from pregnancy to childhood, we were able to include a wide range of elements in our analysis, including maternal diet during pregnancy, breastfeeding, smoking, the mother’s health history, parental education and social class.”

Researchers followed the progress of the children, on the Spanish island of Menorca, at regular intervals from before they were born until they were six-and-a-half.

They discovered that children who consumed more than 40 grams of “fruity vegetables” a day – namely tomatoes, eggplants (aubergines), cucumber, green beans and zucchini (courgettes) - were much less likely to suffer from childhood asthma.

And children who consumed more than 60 grams of fish a day also suffered less childhood allergies, echoing the protective effects they experienced when their mothers ate fish during pregnancy.

However the researchers noted that the dietary effects were quite specific and that other fruits and vegetables examined did not provide the same protective effect. Nor did other food groups included in the study, such as dairy products, meat, poultry and bread.

The mothers of 232 boys and 228 girls, who had been recruited during antenatal classes, completed detailed questionnaires on their children’s health, weight, diet and any breathing problems every year until their child was six-and-a-half.

90 per cent of the children also underwent allergy testing – skin prick tests were used to check their response to the six most common allergens, including grass pollen and cats.

The researchers found that just under nine per cent of the children suffered from some degree of wheezing, including six per cent with an allergy-related wheeze. And 17 per cent reacted to at least one of the allergens in the skin prick test.

“After adjusting the results for a wide range of variables, we concluded that the link between symptom-free children and a diet rich in fruity vegetables and fish was statistically significant” says Dr Chatzi.

“The biological mechanisms that underlie the protective affect of these foods is not fully understood, but we believe that the fruity vegetables and fish reduce the inflammation associated with asthma and allergies.

“The interesting thing about this study is that it followed a large number of children from the womb to the age of six-and-a-half and incorporated a wide range of dietary, social and health factors” says the Journal’s Editor, Professor John Warner, Head of the Department of Paediatrics at Imperial College London.

“It provides parents with specific advice about the health promotion benefits of including fish and fruity vegetables as part of a balanced diet for both their children and the rest of the family.”



* Diet, wheeze and atrophy in school children in Menorca, Spain. Chatzi et al. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. 18, pages 480 to 485. (September 2007)

* Pediatric Allergy and Immunology publishes original contributions and comprehensive reviews on the understanding and treatment of immune deficiency and allergic inflammatory and infectious diseases in children, the development of specific and accessory immunity and the immunological interaction during pregnancy and lactation between mother and child. It aims to promote communication between scientists engaged in basic research and clinicians working with children and publishes both clinical and experimental work. Edited by Professor John Warner of Imperial College London it is published eight times a year by Wiley-Blackwell.

* Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd by John Wiley & Sons, Inc, and the merger between Blackwell and Wiley's Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,250 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal.

Brits in Crete Blog thanks Dr Leda Chatzi and her team from the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Crete, Greece for this invaluable information.