Kids who eat three or more servings a week of fast food have something more at risk than obesity. A new study of 500,000 children – between 6 and 14 years of age, in 51 countries – has linked fast foods to severe asthma, hay fever and eczema.
Published January 14th in Thorax, an international journal of respiratory medicine, the study is consistent with similar, smaller studies from recent years. Now, however – thanks to such a significant sample size – this fast food link is hard to ignore.
While it is important to know this study does not say fast food causes asthma, eczema or hay fever, the study does in fact provide statistical evidence that fast food makes the severity of these conditions worse.
“The findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally,” said Dr. Hywel Williams (from the University of Nottingham in the U.K.) and Dr. Innes Asher (from the University of Auckland in New Zealand) – lead researchers in the study.
The study also had some good news. Researchers observed that fruit consumption curbed the risk for severe asthma, hay fever and eczema. Consuming three portions of fruit per week was linked to a 14 percent reduction in symptom severity for children, and an 11 percent reduction for the teens.
“What’s clear from this study is that fruits and vegetables turned up as protective factors and fast foods turned up as risk factors,” said the study’s co-author, Dr. Gabriele Nagel, a senior researcher at the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at Ulm University in Germany.
When asked if he believed parents of a child with asthma or eczema should be concerned if their child has fast food occasionally, Dr. Williams answered, “Probably not, and sentencing all allergic children to a ban on fast foods would only serve to discriminate against an already impaired quality of life for many. All we can really suggest from this data is that consuming fast foods at least three times a week increases the risk of having severe asthma, hay fever or eczema by around 30 percent.”
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