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Mind and Body

Fish and allergies? Surprising connection discovered

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The big question posed by researchers is whether fish intake in early childhood is associated with reducing the risk of allergies, and does this effect last during childhood?  

The study's authors in Sweden studied more than 3,000 young children and looked at the effect of regular fish ingestion and a lessening of the number of children with allergies, such as seasonal, indoor allergies and eczema.

This study showed that children who consumed at least two servings of fish monthly were up to 75 percent less likely to have allergy symptoms. Although most studies surrounding fish intake and allergies have been observational, there has been a shift in the thinking around introducing children to diverse foods at a young age.

Surprisingly, diets rich in fish (for children beginning around age one) are quite common in certain areas of the world. One such area is the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean diet stresses the importance of a diet focused mainly on: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, legumes, and seeds. Another important staple of this diet is (low-mercury) fish and seafood. 

Believers in this style of eating limit dairy to the occasional Greek-strained yogurt or fresh cheeses.

One study of approximately 460 children living in Minorca (Spanish island in the Mediterranean) found that children who ate a mostly plant-based diet were at least 62 percent less likely to suffer from asthmatic wheezing or allergies. This same study showed that kids who ate in excess of 60 grams of fish per day were 57 percent less likely to have positive allergy tests. 

The exact correlation between the Mediterranean style diet and allergies is unknown, but with findings like these on the rise we can be sure that more conclusive studies are on the horizon.

In the meantime, talk to your pediatrician or pediatric allergist before changing your child’s diet. Incorporating more plant-based foods has a positive effect on the overall health of everyone, so now that the warmer weather is here, there is no better time for a big salad with a drizzle of olive oil. 

Dr. Clifford Bassett is an adult and pediatric allergy specialist, and diplomat of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. He is the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY.  Bassett is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and on the teaching faculty of NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center and assistant clinical professor of Medicine and Otolaryngology at SUNY LICH. Follow him on Twitter.