Mediterranean Diet Adherence is Associated with Lower Prevalence of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders in Children and Adolescents

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Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) comprise a combination of multiple, chronic or recurrent symptoms, which cannot be attributed to any structural disease after thorough biochemical and histological investigation. Recent studies reported a prevalence of 20.7% in children (four to 12 years) and 26.6% in adolescents (13 to 18 years) for at least one FGID, suggesting that FGIDs may represent the most common cause of gastrointestinal complaints. The absence of specific biochemical tests and evidence of underlying organic disease may lead to under-diagnosis or/and undertreatment of pediatric FGIDs. Nevertheless, FGIDs have a significant impact on the quality of life for both patients and their families and increase the utilization of healthcare resources, thereby increasing healthcare costs.

Information on the compliance with the MD of children and adolescents suffering FGID is scarce. Charalampos Agakidis and his group carried out a study to examine the potential association between FGIDs and adherence to the Mediterranean Diet (MD) in elemental school children (ESC) and high school students (HSS).

In a prospective cohort study, data from 1116 subjects (387 ESC and 448 HSS) aged 6–18 years were collected. FGID identification was based on the Questionnaire on Pediatric Gastrointestinal Symptoms-Rome III (QPGS-RIII).

Results of the current study indicate that good adherence to the MD decreases the risk of developing FGIDs in children and adolescents. The mechanisms underlying this association and the causality between the MD and FGIDs need further clarification. If the current study findings are confirmed with the use of extensive dietary assessments, metabolomic analysis and microbiome assessments able to provide a much more complete picture of the diet–health relationship [46], then intervention studies should be designed in order to promote compliance to healthy dietary patterns starting in early childhood. Until then, encouraging children and adolescents to follow the MD could have a place among other measures in preventing FGIDs or minimizing the symptoms.

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