Fast Food May Increase Risk of Asthma, Eczema and Hay Fever

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Teens and children are notorious for eating fast food. And while most dieticians and nutritionists know the risks these foods pose to good health, few may be aware of a new study that may link these eating habits with asthma, eczema and hay fever. 


The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) recently published in the British Medical Journal's respiratory journal Thorax compiled questionnaires by 319,196 13- and 14-year-old children from 51 countries and by the parents of 181,631 6- and 7-year-old children in 31 countries. Respondents were asked to specify any of three conditions they experienced after eating certain foods during the year. 

"We found clear associations between certain foods and severe asthma, hay fever (or allergic rhinoconjunctivitis) and eczema in the largest study of allergies in children (aged 6-7 years) and adolescents (13-14 years) to date," noted Hywel Williams of the Centre for Evidence Based Dermatology, Queen's Medical Centre, University Hospital, Nottingham, UK.  
Teens and children who consumed fast food three or more times a week had about a 30-percent increased risk of severe asthma, hay fever and eczema. Yet those who ate fruit at least three times a week experienced some protections against severe asthma. 


Age group, affluence and gender had no impact the outcomes. And there were certain caveats for those too eager to establish a strong link between fast food and allergies. Study authors warn that further research is necessary. "The cautionary notes are that this study showed an association, which does not always mean that the link between food and allergies is causal," said Williams. "It could be due to other factors linked to behavior that we have not measured, or it could be due to biases that occur in studies that measure disease and ask about previous food intake." 


Williams made the point that teens and children needn’t stop eating fast food entirely. “[Make sure they] eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and maybe less fast food—one or two times per week rather than three or more—if your child has allergies."
Other allergy experts note that there is evidence to suggest a link between diet and one’s immune system. "It's not at all surprising to me that a disease as complex as asthma would be directly affected by diet. We've known for a while that diet can affect immune system function with certain foods being pro or anti-inflammatory," observed Dr. Stephen Teach, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children's National Medical Center in Washington. "Given that asthma is inherently an inflammatory disease, with swelling and inflammation of the small to medium-size airways of the lung, it is not at all surprising that diet should affect those processes in some way."


For nutritionists and dieticians, the message is a simple one: advise your teen and child patients to eat less fast food and more fruits and vegetables. 


Image courtesy of Pong/

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  • Marie B
    Marie B
    Fast food affects adults in the way. I can not eat "processed" food without having an asthma attack. I need to take an antihistamine and use an inhaler. I started to eat whole foods and do not have an allergic reaction. I can always tell when a restaurant prepares whole foods as opposed to "processed" by my reaction.
  • Alex Kecskes
    Alex Kecskes
    "Hungry for a Change" has some very good points. Most of the food sold in supermarkets is designed to meet three objectives: Taste, appearance and shelf life--nutritional value is way down on the list. Sugar is indeed the new opiate of the food industry. Diet drinks are bad for you. To stay healthy you should juice a rainbow of fruits and veggies, go on 20-minute walks each day, laugh, get enough sleep and love yourself.
  • Beverly F
    Beverly F
    Interesting the dietary interaction suggestion which I believe in the relationship is fact.
  • Fuseina g
    Fuseina g
    Some might say that fast foods should be banned completely. Economically, these fast food companies do provide jobs to families, and so to say getting rid of these companies will have an effect on families. I believe and agree as mentioned in the article that children should be allowed fast foods maybe once a week. Also fast food menus should try and make their food more healthier or give healthier options.
  • Gail J
    Gail J
    I recently changed diet to gluten free, dairy free and sugar and am symptom free and lost ten pounds in three weeks.  I have had  border-line asthma and autoimmune issues in the past and never have felt better eating only whole healthy foods without additives.  My both thumbs were always swollen with arthrities and a dull ache .  Now the thumbs are so much better.  It is hard to believe but, "we are what we eat".
  • Trisha F
    Trisha F
    It is very scary for today's generation!
  • Mary F
    Mary F
    Another excellent, unbiased, and eye - opening article by Alex Kecskes. Fast food is not a good alternative to a healthy meal, but given the now very fast paced life styles many of us lead, it is not surprising that so many people resort to the quick, cheap, already made meal on the run. Unfortunately, fast food diet, has a long range affect on all other body systems, starting early in life. I also have a difficult time giving up McD' sfries a couple times a month...
  • DeShone M
    DeShone M
    Instead of compromising by saying "less fast food," how about no fast food. Fast food has never been nor will it ever be healthy for children or adults. It's processed food products filled with the many variations of MSG and high fructose corn syrup; both of which are addictive. Perhaps, you should watch Food Nation's movie Hungry For Change. This gives a better understanding of food and how natural, whole foods are much better for you. As well as the truth about refined or bleached sugar and flour, canned and frozen foods, and more.

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