Whole grain and fish consumption may reduce the risk of developing childhood asthma, according to a new study from the Netherlands (Thorax, 2006, vol. 61, no. 12).

The International Study on Allergy and Asthma in Childhood 2 evaluated the diets of 598 Dutch children, ages 8 to 13. Researchers analyzed data from questionnaire and tests to determine any relationship between specific foods and asthma.

Youths who ate lots of whole grains and fish, they found, had a lower incidence of asthma. Specifically, children with a high whole-grain intake were 54 percent less likely to be asthmatic than those with a low intake; children with a high fish intake had a 66 percent reduced risk.

According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, some 20 million Americans (1 in 15) suffer from asthma; 5 million are under 18. Asthma-related costs in the United States run nearly $18 billion a year.

Researchers theorize that the rise of asthma in Western societies could be related to changes in dietary habits. Specifically, several studies have shown an inverse relationship between asthma and children's consumption of fruit, vegetable, and dairy products.