A study of children living on the Greek island of Crete revealed a Med-style diet high in vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and nuts can have a beneficial effect on allergies and asthma symptoms. Dr. Paul Cullinan of Britain’s Royal Brompton Hospital and National Heart and Lung Institute, and colleagues in Greece and Spain, assessed the diet and health of 690 children living in rural areas of Crete, aged 7 to 18.
Most of the children had a moderate to high level adherence to the dietary pattern of the Mediterranean diet, evaluated by a 58-item food frequency questionnaire. Children who ate more grapes, oranges, apples, and fresh tomatoes, the main local products in Crete, had less wheezing and allergic rhinitis. “Our findings indicate that a high dietary intake of commonly consumed fruits and vegetables and nuts may have a protective role on the prevalence of asthma-like symptoms and allergic rhinitis,” wrote lead author Leda Chatzi from the University of Crete.
About 30 percent of children have allergies and about half of those would exhibit symptoms. In Crete, about the same percent of children have allergies, yet almost none exhibit symptoms. “The startling thing about Crete is that these kids ought to have as much asthma and allergy symptoms,” said Cullinan. “There’s something different about their lifestyle, and one obvious thing is what they eat.” The diet’s main nutritional components include antioxidants and polyphenols that appear to offer protection, wrote the researchers. The study was published in the journal Thorax.
The Mediterranean diet has been associated with reductions in high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. A new Mediterranean diet symbol is set to be launched in the US in coming months. Due to be introduced by nutrition group Oldways, the Med Mark stamp (likely shaped as a terra cotta amphora) will be available for use on products that meet the traditional Mediterranean guidelines set out by Oldways. A new Oldways website will include Mediterranean diet information and a summary of studies on its healthfulness. For more information about food therapy for wellness contact Dr. Richard Browne at (305) 595-9500.