A study led by La Trobe University has shown that eating fish such as sardines, salmon and trout twice a week can reduce asthma symptoms in children.
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The international clinical trial found that children who ate the fatty fish as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet had improved lung function after six months.
Lead researcher Maria Papamichael says the findings add to a growing body of evidence that following a healthy diet could serve as a way of combating childhood asthma symptons.
Co-supervisor of the trial, Bircan Erbas says asthma is the most common respiratory disease in young people and a leading reason for hospitalisations and trips to emergency among children.
Unfortunately, the rate of asthma worldwide remains high. It is imperative that we identify new therapies that we can use alongside conventional asthma medications.”
Bircan Erbas, Trial Co-supervisor
Papamichael says scientists were already aware that a diet rich in fat, salt and sugar can enhance the progression of childhood asthma, but the current study now provides evidence that healthy eating could be used as therapy to help manage symptoms.
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.”
For the study, researchers from Australia and Greece recruited 64 asthmatic children (aged 5 to 12 years) from Athens in Greece and divided them into two groups. About one half were instructed to consume two meals a week containing at least 150 grams of fatty fish as part of the Greek Mediterranean diet and the remainder were asked to stick to their usual diet.
After six months, the researchers found that bronchial inflammation in the children who ate the fish-enriched diet had reduced by 14 units. Any reduction greater than 10 units is considered significant, according to international guidelines.
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.”
Catherine Itsiopoulos, Co-researcher