ChildhoodobesitysmallTeenagers and young children who eat fast food could be increasing their risk of developing asthma, eczema and hay fever according to a study by ISAAC (the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood).

In the largest-ever study of its kind, researchers spoke to nearly 320,000 13-14 year-olds from 51 countries and the parents of over 180,000 6-7 year-olds in 31 countries about their symptoms of the three conditions and about their weekly diet.

Author Prof Hywel Williams, of the Centre for Evidence Based Dermatology at Nottingham University' Queen's Medical Centre, said: "We found clear associations between certain foods and severe asthma, hay fever (or allergic rhinoconjunctivitis) and eczema.

"The cautionary notes are that this study showed an association, which does not always mean that the link between food and allergies is causal. 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."

According to Prof Williams, the associations between allergic diseases and fast food were "only really convincing for severe disease" but if further research shows that consuming a lot of fast food actually does cause these types of allergies, it could have "major public health implications".

By constrast researchers saw a protective effect against severe asthma for those who ate fruit at least three times a week.  Those consuming fast food three or more times a week had about a 30% increased risk of severe asthma, hay fever and eczema, a chronic skin condition that causes scaly, itchy rashes; affluence and gender did not change or affect the outcome.

Even without further research Prof Williams suggested the results should offer clear guidance to parents: "You don't have to stop eating fast food entirely; but to 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 is something all parents should be aiming for."

Posted 16/01/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com