Children of mothers who eat plenty of apples during pregnancy are less likely to develop asthma, research suggests.
The University of Aberdeen project quizzed 2,000 mothers-to-be on their eating habits, then looked at their child's health over five years.
They found that those who ate four or more apples a week were half as likely to have an asthmatic child compared with those who ate one or fewer.
The study was presented at the American Thoracic Society conference.
This study suggests a simple modification that can be made to a pregnant mother's diet which may help protect her child from developing asthma
Dr Victoria King, Asthma UK.
The researchers also found a link between eating more fish in pregnancy, and a lower chance of their child developing the allergic skin condition eczema.
Women who ate one or more portions of any type of fish during pregnancy weekly had almost half the chance of having a child diagnosed with eczema within the first five years.
There are no firm clues as to why apples and fish might be able to produce this benefit - no other foodstuffs were linked to decreases in asthma or eczema.
However, apples are already linked to better lung health when taken by adults, perhaps due to their antioxidant properties, and oily fish in particular contain Omega-3 oils, which, it has been suggested, offer health benefits.
It is, however, notoriously difficult to uncover links between maternal diet and child health, given the numerous other factors which may be involved in the development of diseases such as asthma and eczema.
The Aberdeen team has a group of 2,000 women, who, more than five years ago, monitored their food intake during pregnancy, and then allowed researchers to see what happened to their children.
The project, funded by the charity Asthma UK, has previously revealed links between vitamin consumption in pregnancy and lower levels of asthma.
This time, they feel that while the apparently strong link between apples and asthma does not prove that eating the fruit is the cause of lower asthma rates in children, it does offer a strong argument for a balanced diet during pregnancy.
Dr Graham Devereux, one of the lead researchers, said: "There may well be another factor in the lifestyles of women who eat lots of apples that is influencing this result.
"But it is certainly a clear association, and it is certainly less controversial to encourage women to eat more fruit during pregnancy rather than to take extra vitamins."
Dr Victoria King, Research Development Manager at Asthma UK says: 'This study suggests a simple modification that can be made to a pregnant mother's diet which may help protect her child from developing asthma before the age of five.
"The study supports our advice to pregnant mothers to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
"One in ten children in the UK has asthma so it is vital to continue funding research that could reduce the incidence of childhood asthma.'
Eat To Live: Apple juice against asthma
By JULIA WATSON
WASHINGTON, May 30 (UPI) -- An apple juice a day could keep the doctor away from children suffering from asthma.
A report just out from Britain's National Heart and Lung Institute and published in the European Respiratory Journal is the latest of several studies to suggest apples can affect lung health.
But their juice, not the whole fruit.
A child drinking apple juice at least once a day is half as likely to suffer from wheezing as children who drink it less than once a month.
The impact it has seems to be seen not in a reduction in asthma diagnoses, but on the incidence of wheezing. Wheezing can be a strong indicator of an increased risk of asthma. But not every case of it means that asthma is the cause.
Five- to 10-year-old children in the south London area of Greenwich were studied. Parents were quizzed on their fruit intake and the appearance of any asthma-like symptoms.
The leader of the study, Dr. Peter Burney, thinks it could be the phytochemicals in apples that appear to calm the inflammation in the airways. This condition is characteristic in both wheezing and asthma. Phenolic acids and those flavonoids that we now hear so much about are prime among phytochemicals.
There are more than 20,000 flavonoids. Rich sources also include cooked tomatoes, onions and green and white tea.
Their ability to protect cell membranes from damage and arteries from hardening is why at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day are advised in the diets of people who have suffered a heart attack.
Interestingly for parents looking to control wheezing in their children -- and a relief to anyone watching their food budget -- apple juice does not have to be the expensive fresh-squeezed kind to achieve a result. Long-life juice made from concentrated apple juice is just as effective.
Burney doesn't know why eating the fruit whole doesn't seem to have the same positive outcome.
Research from Scotland's University of Aberdeen published last week indicated that a generous consumption of apples by women during pregnancy could protect their unborn babies against asthma later in their development.
Asthma UK researcher Dr Mike Thomas told the BBC that this new study from the National Heart and Lung Institute was further evidence of the protective effect of apples.
"There is some evidence that a healthy diet rich in anti-oxidants and vitamins is good for asthma."
So what do you do with a child who doesn't like apple juice? Although they didn't have quite the powerful effect found by drinking apple juice, bananas offered a similar but lesser benefit to children who ate them daily.
If you can't press apple juice on your child, try disguising it as a candy. You can put these in a bag in their lunch-boxes.
-- 1 6-ounce can of frozen apple juice concentrate
-- 1 Â1⁄2 tablespoons plain gelatin
-- 3/4 cup water
-- Thinly coat a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil or spray.
-- Soften the gelatin in cold water in a pan for 5 minutes, then heat gently and stir until it dissolves, then remove from heat.
-- Pour in the apple juice concentrate, stir well and pour carefully into the loaf pan.
-- Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate until set.
-- Turn upside down onto a plate and cut into 1-inch cubes and eat.
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