12 January - 20 June 2016

Fast food linked to asthma and eczema

23 Jan 13

A large international study published online in the respiratory journal Thorax by Ellwood et al found a significant linkage between eating fast food more than three times a week and the severity of allergic asthma, eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis among children.  Researchers wanted to investigate the theory that changes in traditional diets in the developed world since World War Two may be responsible for the sharp rise in allergic conditions.  The study included 319,196 adolescents aged 13 – 14 and 181,631 children aged 4 – 7.  Using a questionnaire, information on the diet and clinical symptoms of asthma, eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis were collected over a period of a year.  The researchers then looked to see if there was an association between the food consumed and the clinical symptoms reported.  After taking account of confounding factors, including exercise, television watching, maternal education, maternal smoking in the first year of life and current maternal smoking, Ellwood et al found that for adolescents eating fast food at least three times per week was associated with an increased risk of current wheeze, severe asthma, current rhinoconjunctivitis, severe rhinoconjunctivitis, current eczema and severe eczema.  However milk, fruit, and vegetables were found to be ‘protective’ foods.  They also found similar results for children where consuming fast foods once or twice per week or at least three times per week was associated with an increased risk of current wheeze and severe asthma. Current rhinoconjunctivitis, severe rhinoconjunctivitis, and severe eczema were found to be associated with eating fast foods at least three times per week. ‘Protective’ foods for children were found to be eggs, fruit, cereals, meat, milk, nuts, pasta, potato, pulses, rice, seafood, and vegetables and were associated with a reduced risk of at least one condition without being associated with an increased risk of any condition.  The researchers did emphasise that their results do not prove cause and effect but they do warrant further investigation.

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