A clinical trial led by La Trobe University, Melbourne, found children with asthma who followed a healthy Mediterranean diet enriched with fatty fish had improved lung function after six months.
Lead researcher Maria Papamichael said the findings added to a growing body of evidence that a healthy diet could improve childhood asthma.
“We already know that a diet high in fat, sugar and salt can influence the development of asthma in children and now we have evidence that it’s also possible to manage asthma symptoms through healthy eating,” Papamichael said. “Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties. Our study shows eating fish just twice a week can significantly decrease lung inflammation in children with asthma.”
The study involved 64 children from Athens in Greece, aged five to 12, who had mild asthma. Researchers divided the children into two groups and instructed half of them to eat two meals of cooked fatty fish (of at least 150 grams) every week for six months, alongside their usual Mediterranean diet. The remaining children followed their normal diet.
At the end of the trial, the researchers found the group who ate the fish had reduced their bronchial inflammation by 14 units. Reduction above 10 units is significant under international guidelines, the researchers said.
Co-researcher and head of La Trobe’s School of Allied Health, Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, said the results were promising. “Following a traditional Mediterranean diet that is high in plant-based foods and oily fish could be an easy, safe and effective way to reduce asthma symptoms in children,” she said.
Associate Professor Bircan Erbas, from La Trobe’s School of Psychology and Public Health, added: “Asthma is the most common respiratory disease in young people and one of the leading reasons for hospitalisations and trips to emergency for children.
“It is imperative that we identify new therapies that we can use alongside conventional asthma medications.”