Study Finds Association Between Fast Food And Childhood Asthma
January 14, 2013

Study Finds Association Between Fast Food And Childhood Asthma

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Researchers writing in the journal Thorax claim that fast-food may be linked with childhood asthma and eczema.

The team used data from more than 500,000 children in more than 50 countries, finding that a poor diet may be blamed for rising levels of asthma and eczema.

They discovered that children who ate fast food, like a McDonald's hamburger, risked allergy-related conditions such as severe asthma, eczema and itchy, watery eyes. As fast-food proved to be an alleged culprit, fruit showed that it appears to be protective.

Fast foods contain high levels of saturated- and trans-fatty acids, while fruit is rich in antioxidants and other compounds.

During the study, children who ate three or more weekly servings of fast food had a 39 percent increased risk in having severe asthma. However, eating three or more portions of fruit a week cut the risk of severe asthma, eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis by between 11 percent and 14 percent.

"If the associations between fast foods and the symptom prevalence of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis and eczema is causal [sic], then the findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally," the authors wrote in the journal.

Malayka Rahman of Asthma UK said in a statement that the researchers suggest a person's diet may contribute to their risk of developing asthma, and that eating healthily may have a beneficial effect.

"Evidence suggests that the vitamins and antioxidants found in fresh fruit and vegetables have a beneficial effect on asthma therefore Asthma UK advises people with asthma to eat a healthy, balanced diet including five portions of fruit or vegetables every day, fish more than twice a week, and pulses more than once a week," Rahman said in a statement.

The study authors said that to prove an association, is not to prove a cause. However, it did say that more clarity was needed.

"If the associations (are) causal, then the findings have major public health significance, owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally," the authors said.

During the study, the authors filtered out certain other variables that could've skewed the results, including maternal smoking during pregnancy, sedentary lifestyle, and body-mass index.

Past research showed that saturated and "trans" fatty acids can trigger an inflammatory response from the immune system. This study saw that children eating a Mediterranean diet high in fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of asthma.

Research has also indicated in the past that diets with a high intake of salt and fatty acids, such as those found in margarine, could also induce asthma.