Editors' ChoiceNutrition

Antioxidizing Asthma

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Science Translational Medicine  10 Oct 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 155, pp. 155ec185
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005079

What do almonds, berries, carrots, milk, and oysters all have in common? They are dietary sources of antioxidants—vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, β-carotene, magnesium, and zinc that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. Prior research suggested that antioxidant intake may reduce the risk of allergic disease in children. However, modification of the diets of children in an attempt to avoid allergic symptoms complicates the evaluation of causal relationships. Now, Rosenlund et al. investigate the association between intake of dietary antioxidants and allergic disease, taking into account the disease-related diet modification.

The authors analyzed data from 2442 8-year-old children from the Swedish birth cohort study BAMSE. The study sample included children with completed questionnaires on exposures, clinical symptoms related to allergic disease, food-frequency questionnaires, and blood samples for allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) to determine atopic sensitization. High dietary intake of β-carotene and vitamin C were inversely associated with rhinitis and IgE-mediated eczema, respectively. Magnesium intake was inversely related to asthma and atopic sensitization. After exclusion of children who avoided fruits, vegetables, or milk because of allergic symptoms, only the inverse relationship between magnesium intake and asthma remained.

These results suggest that magnesium intake may have a protective effect on childhood asthma. The authors conclude that diet modification to stem allergy may affect antioxidant intake, and this confounding factor needs to be considered when evaluating the relationship between diet and allergic disease. This study included a large sample of participants with detailed information on food intake and blood samples. However, it is limited by its cross-sectional design and the large number of statistical comparisons made. Although further prospective studies in children may address these limitations, this study takes an important step toward deciphering the effects of disease-related diet modification on antioxidant intake and allergic disease.

H. Rosenlund et al., Antioxidant intake and allergic disease in children. Clin. Exp. Allergy 42, 1491–1500 (2012). [Abstract]

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