Craving fruits and fish while you’re pregnant? Your body may be telling you how to protect your baby from asthma and allergies! A study in the journal Thorax (January 2008) suggests that a “Mediterranean diet” could do just that.
Researchers followed 468 mother-child pairs, tracking them from pregnancy to when the children reached age 6 and a half. Children whose mothers followed a traditional Mediterranean diet while pregnant were significantly less likely to have asthma and allergy symptoms.
The basics: Check out your local book store and you’ll see a lot of shelf space devoted to heart-healthy Mediterranean diets. These diets generally include
- Lots of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds
- olive oil for cooking (rather than butter or other oils)
- small amounts of dairy, fish and chicken
- very little red meat or eggs
This diet is low in saturated fats and rich in carbohydrates, fiber and antioxidants. The key to good health seems to be the combination of these foods – how the nutrients interact in your body. How does this help your baby?
The research: The authors suggest that antioxidants and the right fatty acids in the mother’s diet can protect baby’s lung tissues and reduce the risk of allergic diseases – all while baby’s immune system is developing inside the womb. Children who ate these foods didn’t see the same protective benefits as children whose mothers used this diet while pregnant. Further study is needed to look at how this really works in the womb. The authors also plan to follow the children in the study to see if they stay asthma- and allergy-free further into childhood.
In the meantime, consult your doctor before making changes to your diet.
First published: The MA Report
Reviewed: March 2011