Research shows junk food-child asthma link
Tuesday August 22, 2001
LONDON (Reuters) - Diets rich in junk food could be the culprits
behind the rapid rise of asthma and allergies in children, scientists
in Scotland and Saudi Arabia said in research published Tuesday.
``This study suggests that dietary factors during childhood are an
important influence in determining the expression of wheezy
illness,'' the researchers said in the latest edition of the medical
journal Thorax. ``The frequency of eating at a fast food outlet was
significantly related to being a case.''
The research concentrated on communities in Saudi Arabia where
lifestyles and rates of allergies differed significantly.
A comparison of some 100 children with asthma symptoms and about 200
non-asthmatic children showed that those who had the lowest intakes
of vegetables, milk, vitamin E and minerals were more likely to
suffer from the disease, the researchers said.
Children whose diets were low in vegetables and vitamin E were two to
three times more likely to develop asthmatic symptoms than other
children irrespective of other factors such as family size, affluence
and parental smoking, they added.
The children most at risk lived in urban areas such as Jeddah where
poor diet was associated with the availability of junk food, the
researchers said. ``With increasing prosperity and commercial
exposure, there has been an influx over some three decades of
western-type frozen and prepared foods,'' the scientists said.
Rural children who ate a more traditional Saudi Arabian diet of cows'
and goats' milk, lamb, rice, vegetables, fruit, dates and chicken
were less at risk. Previous studies have linked asthma to diet.
A dramatic increase in asthma in Scotland has been shown to
correspond to a decline in the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables
in peoples' diets over the last 30 years.
Asthma, the most common chronic childhood disease, is one of the
fastest growing ailments, with cases increasing by up to 50% every 10
years. An estimated 150 million people worldwide suffer from the
The illness causes inflammation of the passages that carry air in and
out of the lungs. Triggers such as colds, cigarette smoke, pollen,
dust mites and animals can cause the gasping and wheezing of an