Background: The increasing prevalence of asthma and allergy might be related to diet, particularly in Western countries. A study was undertaken to assess the association between dietary factors, asthma and allergy in a large international study including objective measurements of atopy.
Methods: Between 1995 and 2005, cross-sectional studies were performed in 29 centres in 20 countries. Parental questionnaires were used to collect information on allergic diseases and exposure factors and data from 50 004 randomly selected schoolchildren (8-12 years, 29 579 with skin prick testing) were analysed. Random effect models for meta-analysis were applied to calculate combined ORs.
Results: Fruit intake was associated with a low prevalence of current wheeze in affluent (OR(adj) 0.86, 95% CI 0.73 to 1.02) and non-affluent countries (OR(adj) 0.71, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.88). Consumption of fish in affluent countries (OR(adj) 0.85, 95% CI 0.74 to 0.97) and of cooked green vegetables in non-affluent countries (OR(adj) 0.78, 95% CI 0.65 to 0.95) was associated with a lower prevalence of current wheeze. Overall, more frequent consumption of fruit, vegetables and fish was associated with a lower lifetime prevalence of asthma, whereas high burger consumption was associated with higher lifetime asthma prevalence. None of the food items was associated with allergic sensitisation. Except for fruit juice and fruit consumption, no associations were found with atopic wheeze. Food selection according to the 'Mediterranean diet' was associated with a lower prevalence of current wheeze and asthma ever (p(trend)=0.03).
Conclusion: Diet is associated with wheeze and asthma but not with allergic sensitisation in children. These results provide further evidence that adherence to the 'Mediterranean diet' may provide some protection against wheeze and asthma in childhood.