The scientists from the Baylor College of Medicine also showed that children who ate daily in fast-food restaurants experienced more frequent episodes of pain than those who ate fast food only once per week.
"Our study found that abdominal pain is common among school children and can cause interruptions in school activities and lifestyles," said Dr Hoda Malaty, lead investigator of the study, presenting the findings at Digestive Disease Week in New Orleans. "But consistent with physician recommendations, we found that healthy eating habits appear to protect the GI tract from these symptoms."
A total of 700 school children completed a questionnaire that ranked RAP into three scales: pain intensity, non-pain symptoms and satisfaction. Children were identified as having RAP if they met Apley's Criteria: (1) at least three attacks of pain; (2) pain severe enough to affect activities; (3) attacks occurring over a period of 3 months; and (4) no known organic cause.
The overall prevalence of RAP was about one-quarter, with no differences with regard to ethnicity. Based on a pain intensity scale, 60 per cent of children reported moderate to severe pain and 45 per cent had pain for more than 30 minutes.
Children that ate up to two servings of fruit each week were twice as likely to have no RAP symptoms than those eating no fruit, suggests the data (abstract 103866).