Is Fast Food Flaring Kids' Allergies?

Asthma and allergy symptoms were linked to fast food

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) It’s no surprise to find out that healthy kids eat healthy food. But what about kids who eat fast food several times per week? Can the body be allergic to junk food?

A recent study looked at the association between diet and asthma, eczema and allergy symptoms. The study’s findings showed more asthma, eczema and allergy symptoms in kids and teens that ate fast food three or more times per week.

On the other hand, those who ate fruits and vegetables three or more times per week had fewer of those symptoms.

"Feed your kids plenty of fruits and veggies."

Philippa Ellwood, MPH, Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, worked with an international team of colleagues to investigate the role of fast food in children’s allergies.

Researchers working on Phase III of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISSAC) gathered data on children and adolescents from all over the world. For the study, 319,196 adolescents from 13-14 years of age and the parents of 181,631 children 6-7 years of age filled out surveys.

The adolescents were from 51 different countries and the children were from 31 different countries.

The surveys asked questions about asthma, eczema, rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms and eating habits.

Rhinoconjunctivitis is a medical term used to describe the combined symptoms of allergies in the sinus system: itchy, red or watery eyes, runny and itchy nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion.

Eczema is skin irritation or inflammation that is often itchy, dry and uncomfortable.

Asthma happens when a person’s airways swell and spasm which make it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness and can be the result of an allergic reaction.

Study results showed that young people who ate fast food three or more times per week had 1.8 times higher chance of having a current wheeze, an associated symptom of asthma. They also had 1.4 times greater chance of having severe asthma.

In addition, the same group had 1.2 times higher odds of having rhinoconjunctivitis and eczema.

Researchers found that children and adolescents who ate eggs, fruit, meat, vegetables and milk three or more times per week had fewer allergy and asthma symptoms.

Calculating region, gender and wealth did not significantly influence any of the findings.

The researchers said, “For all centres (places) combined, a consistently positive association was observed between all three conditions (current and severe) and intake of butter, fast food, margarine and pasta three or more times per week.”

The authors concluded, “If the association between fast foods and the symptom prevalence of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis and eczema is causal, then the findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally.”

While this study was not designed to discover the reasons why fast food was linked to asthma, eczema and allergy symptoms, researchers suggested the link "could be related to higher saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, sodium, carbohydrates and sugar levels of fast food and possibly preservatives.”

Authors recommended further studies to investigate the protective association of fruits and vegetables against asthma, eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis.

This study was published in January in Thorax: An International Journal Of Respiratory Medicine.

The study was supported by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand, AstraZeneca New Zealand, Auckland Medical Research Foundation, the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the Child Health Research Foundation, Waikato Medical Research Foundation and Glaxo Wellcome International Medical Affairs.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 14, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013