It's rare that an inconclusive study with unique findings is worth paying attenton to--and perhaps acting on. A recent report in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology is a rare exception. Let's look.
Bottom line first
Kids who eat higher-than-usual amounts of fish and "fruity vegetables" appear less likely to develop asthma and allergies than kids who eat less of these things. What's a "fruity vegetable," you ask? The researchers defined them as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans and zucchini.
This study in 50 words or less
Spanish researchers followed about 460 kids' diets from before birth (meaning their pregnant mothers' diets) to age 6 and a half. Those who ate the most fish and fruity vegetables were less likely to develop asthma and allergies than kids who ate less. Other vegetables did not have the same apparent effect.
Yes, but. . .
This study was not a clinical trial--it used questionnaires to measure the children's food intake.
It was conducted on one Mediterranean island off the coast Spain, an environment that may be so different from U.S. populations that some unaccounted-for cultural or geographic factors factor may explain the results.
**So what are you going to do about it? **
Feed your children more fish and the vegetables mentioned in this study. Don't go overboard or force-feed. But add these foods to the child's diet.
Usually a study with first-of-its-kind results on a small and contained population isn't considered reliable enough to drive a recommendation. This study may never be replicated.
But in this case the implications--that kids should eat fish and a variety of certain common vegetables--dovetail so well with other known information about healthy diets in children that taking them into account presents little potential harm and some possible benefit.
Research has shown benefits to cardiovascular health, joint health and mood linked to higher consumption of some fish. Of course diets high in vegetables (including but not exclusively tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini and eggplant) have been demonstrated many times to confer a wide range of health benefits.
The only caveat here: Pregnant women and young children need to limit their intake of certain kinds of fish due to potentially elevated mercury levels.
The latest government guidelines on this issue provide detailed information about eating fish safely for pregnant women and young children.
Our Diet & Exercise site has plenty of information and expert insight on healthy eating for adults and children.