Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More evidence against junk food

Thorax, a publication of the British Medical Journal, has just published a paper linking high (>3 times per week) fast food consumption in children with increased severity of allergic asthma, eczema and rhinitis (allergic inflammation of the nasal passageways). Here's an excerpt from the BMJ press release:
Eating three or more weekly servings of fast food is linked to the severity of allergic asthma, eczema, and rhinitis among children—in the developed world [...]
The findings prompt the authors to suggest that a fast food diet may be contributing to the rise in these conditions, and if proved causal, could have huge implications for public health, given the popularity of these foodstuffs.
The authors base their findings on data from more than 319,000 13-14 year olds from 107 centres in 51 countries, and more than181,000 six to seven year olds from 64 centres in 31 countries.
The teens and the children’s parents were formally quizzed on whether they had symptoms of asthma (wheeze); rhinoconjunctivitis (which produces a runny or blocked nose accompanied by itchy and watery eyes); and eczema; and their weekly diet.
After taking account of factors likely to influence the results, the analysis showed that fast food was the only food type to show the same associations across both age groups, prompting the authors to suggest that “such consistency adds some weight to the possible causality of the relationship.”
It was associated with current and severe symptoms of all three conditions among the teens— across all centres in the participating countries, irrespective of gender or levels of affluence. 
Stolen from Jessica's Health Blog
A fuller article can be found here.
This research has been led by two paediatricians from the University of Auckland, Professor Innes Asher and Phillippa Ellwood.
This is a hugely important piece of research, and the results strongly suggest that as cash-strapped New Zealand families replace fresh fruit and vegetables with junk food, they may be compromising their children's health. It also begs the question of why the government continues to pussyfoot around with regulating the junk food industry, especially advertising to children.
The BMJ's media release has been picked up by Radio New Zealand. We look forward to this being the top headline, with due credit to our local researchers, in New Zealand's papers tomorrow. Or will they be too afraid of offending their advertisers?