The researchers assessed the dietary habits and respiratory symptoms of 700 children, aged between seven and 18 years, living on the island of Crete where respiratory symptoms are rare.
Parents were asked to complete questionnaires on their children’s allergic and respiratory symptoms and dietary habits.
Whether the children ate a Mediterranean diet was measured against a set of nine food categories that included fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil.
The effect of a Mediterranean diet was found to be strongest on allergic rhinitis, although it offered some protection against asthma symptoms, but not to a significant level.
The findings showed that eating grapes could protect against current and previous wheezing and allergic rhinitis, even after adjusting for confounders.
But a high consumption of margarine was found to double the chances of suffering from respiratory problems, like asthma, due to the high salt and fatty acid content found in it.
The researchers concluded that high antioxidant levels found in fruit and vegetables were behind the diet’s positive effects.
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