It is an established, and grudgingly acknowledged, fact that consumption of too much fast food leads to obesity – which has been called, by many health experts, as the scourge of the 21st century!
Over the past few months so much has been written about this burgeoning epidemic that today most people are aware of the hazards of rising consumption of fast food globally – on health, weight and environment.
However, a new study now says that eating fast food more than three times a week may also lead to asthma, eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis.
Researchers studying global dietary and disease patterns collected data from 500,000 children in more than 50 countries and found that poor diet may be to blame for rising levels of these allergy-related conditions.
On the other hand, eating fruits more than three times a week was found to be associated with a potential protective effect on severe asthma.
The study was Phase Three of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC).
Over the period of a year, 13- and 14-year-olds and parents of six- and seven-year-olds completed written questionnaires on the prevalence of symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjuntivitis and eczema and the frequency of food intake.
The study, which corroborated evidence that saturated fat levels in fast food lowered children’s immune systems, found that teenagers who tucked into burgers and the like three times a week or more were 39 per cent more likely to get severe asthma, eczema and rhinoconjunctivitis.
Younger children were 27 per cent more at risk.
However, three weekly portions of fruit and vegetables cut the risk by 11 per cent among the teenagers and 14 per cent in the younger group.
According to the World Health Organization, some 235 million people currently suffer from asthma and it is the most common chronic disease among children. And the number continues to grow.
In the United States, too, the number of people with asthma has been growing.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology put asthma sufferers in the United States at one in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8 per cent of the population) in 2009, compared with one in 14 (about 20 million, or 7 per cent) in 2001.
Asthma costs in the US grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, posting a 6 per cent increase.
Conservative estimates put sufferers of eczema at 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the world’s population.
A study in 2007 found that a substantial proportion of the US population had symptoms of eczema or eczematous conditions; 31.6 million met the empirical symptom criteria for eczema and 17.8 million met the empirical criteria for atopic dermatitis.
Although not life threatening, eczema can result in disability, skin damage and secondary infection adversely affecting the quality of life.