Diet and Asthma in Children: Is there a link?


Asthma has been thought to be an allergic reaction related to multiple factors for example, maternal and infant diet. Although many studies have investigated various factors on its occurrence and severity, no consensus was found so far.


According to a recent survey, eating low-fat yoghurt whilst pregnant can increase the risk of childhood asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). In contrast, such symptoms were not linked to cow’s milk consumption. It could be due to a lower fatty acid contents in low-fat dairy products. This study was carried out by scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health on a Danish National Birth Cohort and these groups of children were followed up to 7 years of age.


The researchers concluded that there was not relationship between diary consumption during pregnancy and asthma in children. Increased risk of asthma in children might be caused by a number of reasons and they will further investigate whether this is linked to certain nutrients or whether people who ate yoghurt regularly had similar lifestyle and dietary patterns. These findings were to be presented in the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in September 2011.


Apart from dairy, maternal consumption of other food items could also impact on allergic symptoms in the offspring. During pregnancy, maternal consumption of fish was found protective against asthma, respiratory and atopic symptoms in children, according to a longitudinal study. In addition, a Mediterranean diet was appeared to be negatively associated with persistent wheeze in a previous study.

Children’s own diet can also effect on asthmatic symptoms. One study published in 2003 had investigated a group of pre-school children. It was found that frequent consumption of milk-fat containing products, assessed using a food-frequency questionnaire was associated with reduced risk of asthma symptoms. The prevalence of asthma at age 3 was lower in children who consumed (at age 2) full cream milk and butter on a daily basis respectively, than in those who did not. Similar results were found on the prevalence of wheeze: lower in children who consumed milk products and butter respectively than in those who did not. Daily consumption of brown bread was also associated with lower rates of asthma and wheeze, whereas no associations were observed with the consumption of fruits, vegetables, margarine, and fish.

In spite of the different size, design and methods of studies, these findings generally pointed to a beneficial effect of fatty acids. Nevertheless, to date, a concrete diet plan for asthma prevention is lacking.