Every weekday for the last 10 years, professor Shane Broughton, Ph.D., has scurried around his lab at the University of Wyoming in Laramie looking for clues to help fight childhood asthma -- a disease that has reached epidemic proportions right under his nose.
For his long hours of work, Dr. Broughton has amassed five filing cabinets packed with data and collected hundreds of cell cultures for analysis. His research has benefited his wife, an asthmatic whose attacks have decreased dramatically, and his 16-year-old daughter, who has remained asthma-free. But unlike most researchers who study asthma, Dr. Broughton isn't focused on dust mites, pollen, or pollution. "Many people believe contaminants are to blame for the drastic increase in asthma rates, but my studies suggest it has much more to do with what we're feeding children," he says. "Diet is key."
The notion that potato chips may be more problematic than pollution, desserts more devilish than dust mites, seems suspect until you realize that Dr. Broughton isn't the only researcher who attributes escalating asthma rates at least in part to dismal diets. In the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia -- countries where asthma now affects 30% of kids and is still climbing -- the link between the disease and diet has been studied by leading scientists for more than a decade. "Our research suggests that it's a combination of dietary factors, rather than a single nutrient or food, that protects children from asthma or puts them at increased risk," says Anthony Seaton, M.D., a professor of environmental medicine at Aberdeen University Medical School in Scotland.
Although the research is still preliminary, scientists worldwide gave Child five healthy eating principles that may help reduce asthma symptoms or avoid the disease entirely. They're intended to be an addition to -- not a substitute for -- the advice or treatment from your child's pediatrician. And there's a bonus: The same nutrition suggestions also protect your child against obesity, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, which can crop up in adolescence or even earlier. Take a deep breath -- and dig in.