(NaturalNews) Women who eat a Mediterranean diet while pregnant appear to reduce their children's risk of developing allergies and asthma, while those who eat more red meat appear to increase it, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Crete, Greece, and published in the journal Thorax.
Researchers followed 468 women on the Spanish island of Menorca from pregnancy until their children were 6.5 years old. Approximately 64 percent of the women studied ate a high quality Mediterranean diet, defined as including more than eight servings of vegetables, three servings of fish and one serving of legumes per week. The other 36 percent ate a lower quality Mediterranean diet.
The children of women who ate the high quality diet while pregnant were 78 percent less likely to have asthma or allergy at the age of six than the children of women who did not eat that diet.
The researchers also found that the children of women who ate more than three or four servings of red meat per week while pregnant were significantly more likely to suffer from allergies or asthma.
Allergies and asthma were determined by means of allergy skin tests and the presence or absence of asthma-like symptoms such as persistent wheezing.
Prior studies by the same researchers have shown that children who eat a Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop allergies and asthma than their peers who eat a more Western diet. But while the protective benefits of a Mediterranean diet appear to be less significant by six years of age, the effects of the maternal diet are still strong.
Part of the diet's protective benefit may come from its high antioxidant content, the researchers suggested.
"Cereals are rich in antioxidant compounds and they have been shown to have a protective effect against asthma in children," they said. "Similarly, fruits, vegetables and legumes are known to be high sources of antioxidants and may therefore help to protect the airways against oxidative damage.