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Can a diet rich in fish help fight childhood asthma?

New research from La Trobe University in Australia suggests a diet rich in fish may help reduce asthma symptoms in children, a disease affecting one in 12 kids in the United States, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The researchers published their clinical trial findings from in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

For the study, scientists conducted a trial involving 64 children from Athens, Greece, all of whom had mild asthma. The children, aged 5 to 12 years, were divided into two groups: the Greek Mediterranean diet group and the group that followed their normal diet. Those in the Greek Mediterranean group ate two meals of cooked fatty fish (at least 150 grams) every week for six months.

Researchers found that at the end of the trial, the Mediterranean diet group experienced a significant reduction in bronchial inflammation.

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“We already know that a diet high in fat, sugar and salt can influence the development and progression of asthma in children and now we have evidence that it's also possible to manage asthma symptoms through healthy eating,” lead researcher Maria Papamichael said in a university article

Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids and such fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, Papamichael said. Eating fish just twice a week, her study found, can significantly decrease lung inflammation in children with asthma.

» RELATED: A Mediterranean diet could help reduce your risk of developing dementia

According to the CDC, approximately 16 million American children have asthma, which can cause wheezing, difficulty breathing and coughing. If left untreated, asthma can cause permanent lung damage over time.

While yearly asthma hospitalizations have declined since 2003, experts warn that climate change may actually make matters worse. 

“Climate change is a huge threat to respiratory health by directly causing or aggravating pre-existing respiratory diseases and increasing exposure to risk factors for respiratory diseases,” the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America wrote on its website. The organization points to current data suggesting that air pollution can both cause and aggravate chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma. Additionally, “increased temperatures due to climate change lead to increased ground-level ozone, which cause airway inflammation and damages lung tissue.”

Read the full study at onlinelibrary.wiley.com.

More about the Mediterranean diet and its benefits

This isn’t the first time researchers have pointed out the benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet, which is rich in plant foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish.

California scientists last year found healthy older adults who followed the Mediterranean or a similar MIND diet lowered their risk of dementia by a third.

And in September, London researchers found the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 33 percent reduced risk of depression among 32,000 adults compared with other diets.

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