Teenagers are more likely to have severe asthma and eczema if they eat fast food more than three times a week, a study has showed.
A diet of fast food and takeaways may be behind the steady surge in children’s asthma and allergies affecting the UK and other developed countries.
An international collaboration of scientists has found that young teenagers in particular are nearly 40% more likely to have severe asthma if they eat burgers and other types of fast food more than three times a week.
For children aged six to seven the risk increased by 27%. Children eating fast food were also more likely to get severe eczema and rhinitis — a condition where the nose blocks and the eyes are itchy.
The scientists, from New Zealand, Spain, Australia and Germany as well as Nottingham in the UK, say their study could have “major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally” if the link they have found turns out not to be coincidence but causal.
The authors said that “such consistency adds some weight to the possible causality of the relationship”. But they said more research would be needed to discover whether fast food is definitely a problem.
The fast food link was stronger among teenagers than among the young children, which the authors suggest may be because adolescents have more independence, money and control over what they eat.
The good news was that eating fruit appeared to protect young people from asthma and allergies. Eating three or more portions a week reduced the severity of the symptoms by 11% among teenagers.