By Dr. Larry Chiaramonte
A study published in the journal Thorax indicates that asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis are more severe among children who eat three or more weekly servings of fast food. The authors studied more 320,000 13-14 year olds in 51 countries, and more than181,000 six to seven year olds in 31 countries in conjunction with the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), which is a collaborative research project involving more than 100 countries and nearly two million children.
Participants were asked about symptoms over the preceding 12 months — including frequency and interference with daily life and/or sleep patterns, all of which are indicative of asthma control —and certain types of food. Three or more weekly servings raised the risk of severe asthma among teens by 39% overall, and a 27% increased risk among children.
As reported in Science Daily, “After taking account of factors likely to influence the results, the analysis showed that fast food was the only food type to show the same associations across both age groups, prompting the authors to suggest that ‘such consistency adds some weight to the possible causality of the relationship.’”
These findings are no surprise to me. I have written previously about the related epidemics of asthma, obesity, and sleep disorders, all of which are linked by diet and the decline of physical activity. Unfortunately, this is only partly about the food itself and more broadly about the way people live that ties them to the calorie, fat, and sodium delivery systems that Happy Meals really are. Asthma is very effectively controlled when health professionals visit homes to inspect for allergens, advise on things like cleaning to get rid of things like dust mites and rodents, and reinforce the importance of medication compliance. If this study has any validity at all these visits ought to include cooking lessons and dietary coaching. One interesting finding was that three or more servings of fresh fruit was associated with an 11% reduction in asthma severity for teenagers and 14% for smaller children.
Easier said than done, of course. Efforts to replace junk food in school cafeteria with stuff that’s good for students have been a flop so far. Then again, most students aren’t sick–yet.
Photo by goodfoodworld.com