Bad impact on children
The research, which was published in the medical journal, Thorax, this week, studied the effects of processed foods such as cheeseburgers, fries and nuggets on children’s health. Scientists from the University of Nottingham in the UK analysed data from more than 181,000 six to seven year olds, and 319,000 13 to 14 year olds. These findings spanned 51 countries. They concluded that those children who ate a fast food meal three or more times per week were more at risk of developing asthma and eczema.
The findings were linked to an international study consisting of almost two million children from one hundred different countries, called the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood.
Parents of each child involved in the University of Nottingham study were asked to record whether their child had experienced various symptoms over the past 12 months, such as
rough skin, patchiness, wheezing or rhino conjunctivitis (where the nose and eyes are runny and itchy). The parents were also asked to state how often their children ate a variety of foods, including natural produce such as meat, fruit, vegetables, rice, dairy and bread. Finally, parents were asked to state how frequently their children ate processed fast food.
Three or more portions heightened risk
After analyzing the results, the scientists found that children in both age groups showed a link between asthma and eczema and the consumption of fast food. Factors such as socio-economic status, race, or gender seemed to make no difference to the results. The teenagers that had three or more portions of fast food meals per week showed signs of a 39 percent increase in the likelihood of developing severe asthma and the children aged six and seven showed a 27 percent increase.
Additives and allergies
The results of the study will come as a worrying affirmation for scientists of the harmful effects of the unnatural additives in chemically-processed food. Alarm bells had already rung following the results of a 2011 study that hinted at the link between additives in fast food and allergies in children. Dr. Hywel C. Williams, who led the University of Nottingham’s latest study expressed his concern over his findings. However, he indicated that the level of consumption was the main problem, given that teenagers generally tend to eat more fast food than most other age groups. It is instead advised that parents seek organically-produced substitutes for ‘popular’ teenage foods, such as burgers, which use fresh meat and natural alternatives to flavoring additives. "A consistent pattern for the adolescent group was found for the relationship between symptoms and fast foods," Dr. Williams' team said. "As adolescents are generally known to be high consumers of fast food, these results that show a significant increased risk of developing each condition may be a genuine finding."
Asthma and eczema set off by allergies
Conditions such as eczema and asthma are often set off by allergic reactions to food allergens such as gluten and dairy – often found in fast food. It is thought there is a link between all of these factors. However, Dr. Williams mentioned that his study did not look into the impact of gluten products on the children’s health.
Fruit and vegetables lowers risk
In contrast, the researchers found that consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables could lower the risk of developing severe asthma or eczema. The results of the study indicated that the severity of asthma and eczema were reduced by 11 to 14 percent for those that consumed three or more portions of fruit or vegetables per week. Dr. Williams advised parents to change their children’s diets accordingly. "Diets that have a regular consumption of fruit and vegetables are likely to protect against asthma, allergic disease and other non-communicable diseases," he said.
Author: Evelyn Coyle
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