Fast Food Linked to Severe Asthma in Children

Large scale of study suggests the link could be causal.

Children gaze at the giant shoes of Ronald McDonald at the world's oldest-operating McDonald's restaurant in Downey, California.
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A new, multinational study suggests that children who often eat fast food have more severe asthma than children who don't.

The study, published Monday in Thorax, a journal about respiratory medicine published by the British Medical Journal, found that 13- and 14-year-olds who ate fast food three times per week had a 39 percent increased risk of severe asthma; 6- and 7-year-olds who ate fast food three times per week had a 27 percent increased risk of severe asthma. Fast food consumption was also linked to an increased risk of severe eczema in children and teens.

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Although the study only demonstrates a link between fast food consumption and asthma, it does not confirm whether fast food causes asthma. The size of the study, which included 319,000 13- and 14-year-olds from 51 countries and 181,000 6- and 7-year-olds from 31 countries, "adds some weight to the possible causality of the relationship."

The researchers, from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, also suggest that fruit may reduce the effects of asthma. Children who consumed at least three servings of fruit per week had up to a 14 percent reduction in asthma severity.

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The authors suggest that fast food's high levels of saturated and trans fat could play a role in asthma severity because both are known to affect immunity.

"If the associations between fast food and the symptom prevalence of asthma … is causal, then the findings have major public health significance," the study says.

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