A team of researches from Finland suggests that diet may play a role in the perceived increase in allergies among children in the industrialized world. Their study found that children who eventually developed allergies ate less butter and more margarine compared with children who did not develop allergies. The allergic children also tended to eat less fish, although this dietary difference was less significant.
While it is too soon to make dietary recommendations aimed at lowering the risk of allergies, the findings provide evidence of a link between certain dietary fats and allergic diseases such as asthma, according experts at the University of Oulu.
This study is not the first to suggest that certain types of fatty acids may play a role in the onset of allergic diseases. Polyunsaturated fats like those in margarine are thought to promote the formation of prostaglandin E2, a substance that promotes inflammation and causes the immune system to release a protein that triggers allergic reactions.
A diet higher in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fats such as those in butter is more healthful in general. But the growing emphasis on achieving this fat balance has been blamed in some research for the increasing rates of childhood allergies, the report indicates. At the same time, however, studies have suggested the unsaturated fats found in certain types of fish may protect against allergic disease.
The results support the hypothesis that the quality of the fat consumed in the diet is important for the development of allergic diseases in children. The possibility of preventing allergic diseases by supplementation or by changing the fatty acid composition of the diet of young children remains to be tested by clinical trials.
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