Eating apples while pregnant may give new meaning to an apple a day keeping the doctor away. Compelling new research has concluded that mothers who eat apples during pregnancy may protect their children from developing asthma later in life. The study was published in Thorax online.
This unique longitudinal study tracked dietary intake by nearly 2000 pregnant women, then examined the effects of the maternal diet on airway development in more than 1200 of their children five years later. Among a wide variety of foods consumed and recorded by the pregnant women, the researchers concluded that the children of mothers who ate apples had a significantly reduced risk for the development of asthma and childhood wheezing.
This study focuses on medical evaluations for asthma and related symptoms (i.e., wheezing) when the children were five years old. As a result of the evaluations cited in this research, other than apples, there were no consistent associations found between prenatal consumption of a range of healthful foods and asthma in the 1253 children who were evaluated.
Children of mothers who ate apples during pregnancy were much less likely to exhibit symptoms of asthma (including wheezing), say the researchers who hail from institutions in The Netherlands and Scotland. These same researchers previously reported positive associations between maternal consumption of vitamins A, E, D and zinc with reduced risk of asthma, wheeze and eczema in children.
The only other positive association found between prenatal food intake and risk reduction in the children was with fish, for which the researchers found that children of mothers who ate fish had a lowered incidence of doctor-confirmed eczema.
According to the research, "The present study suggests beneficial associations between maternal apple intake during pregnancy and wheeze and asthma at age five years." They add that their findings "suggest an apple specific effect, possibly because of its phytochemical content, such as flavonoids." The research paper cites other related studies on apples, including those which found that "intake of apples as a significant source of flavonoids and other polyphenols has been beneficially associated with asthma, bronchial hypersensitivity, and lung function in adults."
In 2004, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that nine million U.S. children have been diagnosed with asthma at one point in their lives and four million children suffered from asthma attacks that year. Others suffer from "hidden asthma" - undetected or undiagnosed asthma, according the American Lung Association. The cost of this disease is great - statistics show asthma to be the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among children under 15 and is among the leading causes of school absenteeism.
You can read about the other nutritional benefits of incorporating apples into your diet in our article, What are the health benefits of apples?