Replace Burgers With Fruits and Veggies to Lower Childhood Asthma Risk

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Cutting out fast food burgers and adopting a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, and foods low in saturated fat may help reduce your child’s risk of asthma symptoms such as wheezing, according to a large observational study conducted at Ulm University in Germany and reported in the June issue of the journal Thorax.

The study, conducted by Dr. Gabriele Nagel of the Institute of Epidemiology, included data on 50,000 children between the ages of 8 and 12 in 20 nations over a 10-year period. The children were of varying economic status. Parents were asked about their children’s normal diet and whether they had ever been diagnosed with asthma and/or had wheeze.

Read: Severe Asthma in Children Raises Risk of Adult COPD

Choosing foods similar to a Mediterranean style diet was associated with a lower prevalence of both wheeze and asthma. Fruit intake was found to be the most protective in all areas. Children in both rich and poor countries who had a high fruit intake had lower rates of wheeze. A diet high in fish protected children in rich countries, while a diet rich in cooked green vegetables protected children in poorer countries.

Overall the combination of foods found in a Mediterranean diet was found to be associated with a lower lifetime prevalence of asthma and wheeze. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant vitamins, while fish is high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties.

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On the other hand, the researchers found that children eating burgers at least three times a week had increased odds of having asthma. The study builds on recent research that found that just one high-fat fast food meal can increase lung inflammation and decrease lung function immediately in people with asthma.

Read: Fatty Meal Can Increase Lung Inflammation in Asthmatic Patients

"Fast food is rich in industrially hydrogenated vegetable fats such as margarine and meat from ruminant animals which are dietary sources of trans-fatty acids," the researchers noted. "There is some evidence that dietary intake of trans-fatty acids is associated with asthma and atopy [allergic sensitivity]."

The meat itself did not appear to be the primary factor in the prevalence of asthma and wheeze. Lifestyle may also be a factor in the higher risk of illness for fast food consumers, says Nagel. “It is possible that in higher-income countries, burger consumption is a proxy for obesity, which is a known risk factor for asthma.”

Asthma in children is on the rise worldwide. In the United States, nearly 10 million children are affected.

Journal Reference:
G. Nagel, G. Weinmayr, A. Kleiner, L. Garcia-Marcos, D. P. Strachan. Effect of diet on asthma and allergic sensitisation in the International Study on Allergies and Asthma in Childhood (ISAAC) Phase Two. Thorax, 2010; 65 (6): 516 DOI: 10.1136/thx.2009.128256

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