may be more at risk for asthmatic symptoms.
On February 6, 2013, we published a post on how to wean your kids off fast foods, since they’re so destructive to a healthy life. In addition to being low on nutrition, fast foods are linked with childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Now, a new study indicates that fast foods may also cause asthma and eczema in kids. Here’s more on the study results, plus more tips on what you can do to make fast food less appealing.
Study Shows Fast Food Linked with Asthma
For the study (published in the medical journal Thorax), European researchers analyzed data from participants in the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), which included over 319,000 teens ages 13¬–14 from over 50 countries, and more than 181,000 kids ages 6–7 from 31 countries.
Participants answered questions about their eating habits along with questions about their symptoms of asthma, eczema, wheezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. The results showed:
- Eating fast food meals at least three times a week was linked to a 39 percent increased risk of severe asthma in teens and a 27 percent increased risk among children ages six and seven.
- Eating three or more servings of fruit was associated with an 11 percent decrease in severe symptoms in teens and a 14 percent drop in severity of suffering in kids.
“If true,” said study author Hywel Williams, “our findings have big public health implications given that these types of allergies are on the rise and fast food is so popular.”
Not the First Study
This isn’t the first study to implicate fatty foods as asthma triggers. In 2010, Australian researchers tested people with asthma before and after a high-fat meal or after a low-fat meal. They concluded that the high-fat meal increased inflammation and reduced lung function.
“Our preliminary results demonstrate that at four hours after the consumption of the food challenges, subjects who consumed the high-fat meal had an increase in airway inflammation,” said the lead author of the study, Lisa Wood, a lecturer in biomedical sciences and pharmacy at the Hunger Medical Research Institute in New Lambton. She added that the meal also made asthma medications less effective.
Researchers have also noticed a potential connection between increasing rates of childhood obesity and increasing rates of asthma. A 2007 study by Harvard scientists found that childhood obesity increased almost fourfold and asthma rates doubled between the 1980s and 2007. Scientists think that high-fat foods stimulate inflammation in the body, causing a myriad of health problems.
“Eating that way can lead to obesity,” said study author Wood, “and fat cells can definitely cause quite a bit of inflammation, but I’m surprised one meal could do this.”
Inflammation is Key
Researchers believe that inflammation is the leading theory behind the potential fast-food/asthma connection. In fact, other studies have shown that a high level of dangerous fats called triglycerides, which are present in many fast foods, lead to lung function problems. For example:
- A 2012 study of Fire Department personnel in New York found that those who had high levels of triglycerides were more likely to have impaired lung function.
- A 2010 study looked at the effect of a high-fat meal on airway inflammation and lung function. They found that a high-fat meal increased triglyceride levels, which in turn, significantly increased airway inflammation.
Other studies have shown similar results, which demonstrates that a high-fat diet can affect not only the heart, but can also lead to deterioration of the lungs.
Meanwhile, a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that health problems related to obesity can show up faster than previously thought. Obese children were more likely to suffer attention deficit disorder, depression, learning disabilities, developmental delays, headaches, ear infections, asthma and allergies, and joint problems.
What to Do?
Fast food companies are masters at advertising, and make their selections look fantastic to kids. In addition to the tips mentioned in the previous post, consider these tips for changing your kids’ minds.
- Share the news: Kids five and up are likely to understand that food affects health—if you take the time to explain it. For young kids, try this method from Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist. For older kids, show them the study results and explain how fatty foods harm their bodies.
- Pump up the fruits: This large study showed that fruits can counteract the effects of asthma. Kids typically like fruits because of their natural sweet taste, so find ways to make fruits available every day. Slice them up, put them into smoothies, and carry them with you to help children ward off cravings.
- Start early: It’s never too early to establish your kids’ tastes for good food. According to a 2011 study, the more children eat bad foods, the more they develop a taste preference for them. In other words, even one box of French fries or one fast-food hamburger may be one too many!
- Limit television watching: Fast-food companies are masters at advertising. One study found that when children tasted 5 pairs of identical foods and beverages in packaging from McDonald’s and matched but unbranded packaging, preschool-aged children preferred the tastes of foods and drinks they thought were from McDonald’s.
- Try new things: Introduce your children to the flavors of coconut, passion fruit, kiwi, and other fun items that they may not have tried before. It’s all about exploring how tasty nutritious foods can be.
- Ban fast foods: When it comes down to it, you are the parent, and while your kids are young, you can control what they eat. Stay away from fast food entirely, feed healthy alternatives, and you’ll likely find that your kids’ cravings for the junk significantly reduced.
- Make eating healthy fun: One thing that McDonald’s understands is that kids like eating that’s fun. Happy Meals have toys and festive-looking boxes. McDonald’s restaurants have play areas. The whole thing is like a mini trip to Disneyland. Make home eating more fun by creating faces on the plates before you serve them, purchasing child-centered plates and cups, and allowing children to make their own table centerpieces. Let your imagination come up with other ideas for making meals at home more fun.
Do you have other tips for getting kids to think differently about fast foods? Please share.
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Alexandra Sifferlin, “Fast Food Linked to Asthma and Allergies in Kids,” Time, January 15, 2013, http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/15/fast-food-linked-to-asthma-and-allergies-in-kids/.
Serena Gordon, “High-Fat Meal May Trigger Asthma,” Health Day, May 16, 2010, http://news.health.com/2010/05/17/high-fat-meal-may-trigger-asthma/.
Makiko Kitamura, “Fast Foods Linked to Asthma, Eczema in Children: Study,” Bloomberg, January 14, 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-14/fast-foods-linked-to-asthma-eczema-in-children-study.html.
Megan Bedard, “Are Happy Meals Being Served Up with a Side of Asthma?” TakeApart.com, January 13, 2013, http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/01/15/another-reason-pass-fast-food-its-linked-asthma-and-eczema.
Nathan Gray, “Study begins to unlock the development of child taste preferences,” FoodNavigator.com, January 28, 2011, http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Study-begins-to-unlock-the-development-of-child-taste-preferences.
Thomas N. Robinson, MD, MPH, et al., “Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children’s Taste Preferences,” JAMA, 2007; 161(8):792-797, http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=570933.
Naveed B, et al., “Metabolic syndrome biomarkers predict lung function impairment: a nested case-control study,” Am J Respir Crit Care Med, 2012 Feb 15; 185(4): 392-9, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22095549.
Rosenkranz SK, et al., “Effets of a high-fat meal on pulmonary function in healthy subjects,” Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Jun;109(3):499-506, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20165863.