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Mediterranean Diet Helps Bring Asthma Under Control

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, a higher percentage of both children and adults have problems with asthma than ever before, and on a worldwide basis, difficulty with asthma also seems to be increasing. Some estimates show about 15 millions persons in the U.S. to be suffering from this health problem, and over 300 million worldwide.

Working out of hospitals and medical schools in Helsinki, Finland and Porto, Portugal, researchers obtained information about diet and asthma control in a group of individuals who had been previously diagnosed with asthma. The goal of the study was to determine if control of asthma was associated with Mediterranean diet-type food choices. What researchers found was striking: only 25% of the participants had well-controlled asthma, and they were the same participants who closely followed a Mediterranean-diet food plan. In other words, the risk of having uncontrolled asthma was greatly reduced by sticking closely to a Mediterranean-diet approach to eating. Even after taking into account age, gender, use of steroid inhalers, and calorie intake, eating Mediterranean-diet foods still emerged as a key factor in asthma control. The researchers were also able to single out fresh fruit intake and avoidance of excessive alcohol as key factors in bringing asthma under control.

While it's not surprising to see the Mediterranean diet providing clear benefits in the case of asthma, it's encouraging to see these study results pointing so clearly in a favorable direction. The great antioxidant support provided by fresh fruits and vegetables is very likely to be a major source of lung and airway support in a Mediterranean-diet approach, and so is the rich array of anti-inflammatory compounds found in signature foods like extra virgin olive oil.

Although this study did not focus on control of asthma in children, we would very much like to see this same type of study carried out in this younger age group involving children suffering from asthma. From our perspective, pediatric asthma is becoming an alarmingly common reason for school absence and hospital visits by children, and we are confident that a Mediterranean-diet approach will show benefits in the case of children as well as adults.

Reference

Barros R, Moreira A, Fonseca J et al. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and fresh fruit intake are associated with improved asthma control. Allergy 2008, 63(7): 917-923.

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