A Mediterranean diet and 2 servings of fatty fish per week may help reduce airway inflammation in children with asthma, according to study results published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

Pediatric asthma is the most common respiratory ailment in the world and is associated with increased morbidity and decreased quality of life. In this study, researchers assessed the effects of a Mediterranean diet coupled with fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties, on asthma symptom relief in children.

A total of  64 children with mild asthma, aged 5 to 12 years, were included in the single-centered, 6-month, parallel randomized controlled trial to assess the effects of a Mediterranean diet with fatty fish on asthma symptoms, specifically airway inflammation. The participants were placed into 2 groups: intervention (n=31) and control (n=33). In the intervention group, children were assigned to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with cooked fatty fish (300 g/wk). In the control group, children maintained their regular diets. Bronchial inflammation was determined using fractional exhaled nitric oxide analysis and pulmonary function was assessed using spirometry. Fatty fish intake was measured using a food frequency questionnaire while adherence to the Mediterranean diet was measured using the Mediterranean Diet Quality  Index.

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Fatty fish intake increased in the intervention group from 17 grams per day at onset to 46 grams per day by study completion (P <.001). In addition, the frequency of fatty fish intake reached 84% by study completion in the intervention group compared with 6.1% in the control group. After adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, and regular physical activity,  bronchial inflammation decreased significantly (P =.04, β=-14.15 ppb; 95% CI, –27.39 to –0.91). No difference was observed in spirometry, asthma control, or quality of life. However, in the intervention group researchers noted a reduction in antileukotriene therapy use from onset to 6 months in the intervention group compared with the control group (24 vs 12 and 27 vs 19, respectively).

Overall, the results indicate that a Mediterranean diet, including 2 servings of fatty fish per week, has the potential to reduce airway inflammation in children with asthma. The authors concluded that “future robust clinical trials are warranted to replicate and corroborate these findings.”

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Papamichael MM, Katsardis CH, Lambert K, et al. Efficacy of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with fatty fish in ameliorating inflammation in paediatric asthma: a randomised controlled trial [published online October 30, 2018]. J Hum Nutr Diet. doi:10.1111/jhn.12609