Junk Food Blamed For Some Asthma

Tuesday, 17 October, 2000

Fast food is partly to blame for an increase in childhood asthma and other allergies, according to a study carried out in Saudi Arabia by a doctor from Aberdeen University, Scotland.

By comparing children brought up in Jeddah, the diplomatic centre of the oil-rich middle east, with youngsters living in rural areas, the study concluded that asthma and allergies were more prevalent where the intake of fast food was common. It also concluded that gender, social class, family size and history of infections appeared not to affect the risk of more than 300 children with an average age of 12 who participated in the trial. However, those residing in Jeddah who had adopted a sophisticated western-style lifestyle eating fast food and who had low intakes of vegetables, fibre, vitamin E, key minerals and milk were also at risk.

Researchers were able to demonstrate that after taking into account social factors, a diet relatively poor in nutrients increased the risk of asthma two to three fold in Saudi children. This was consistent with earlier findings in Scottish adults.

The research was based on communities which displayed clear differences in lifestyle and rates of allergies. Some 100 children with symptoms of asthma were compared with 200 non-asthmatic children. In basic terms, because prosperity has increased throughout Saudi Arabia during the past 30 years there has been a tendency towards a western diet, a trend that is more marked in urban areas.

There is no consistent evidence that diet is an important factor in determining whether or not a genetically predisposed individual actually develops the disease, but diet may be important during pregnancy in protecting against allergy since it may influence the development of the immune system. Researchers are continuing their studies with assessments of mothers' diets during pregnancy.

It is hoped the results of the research will provide sensible dietary advice that will lead to a reduction in the incidence of asthma.

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