HealthDay News — Eating fast food multiple times per week is associated with an increased risk of severe asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema among children and adolescents, study results show.

Consuming at least three servings of fast food each week was associated with as associated with a 39% increased risk for severe asthma and a 70% increased risk for severe eczema among teens, Philippa Ellwood, DDN, DPH, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and colleagues reported in Thorax.

Lower levels of consumption — eating fast food one to two times a week — were significantly  associated with wheezing and severe asthma in children, whereas eating fruit seems to be protective against severe asthma, they added.

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Ellwood and colleagues analyzed the potential impact of different types of food on asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema symptom prevalence among 319,196 teens, ages 13 and 14 from 51 countries, and 181,631 children, ages 6 and 7 from 31 countries who participated in  the third phase of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC).

Teen participants and the parents of young children completed questionnaires about symptoms and symptom frequency during the 12 months prior to the study, including questions about food intake. The questionnaires looked at certain types of foods and whether they were eaten once, twice, or three or more times weekly.

Eating fast food at least three times a week increased the risk for severe asthma in both teens (OR=1.27; 95% CI: 1.13-1.42) and children (OR =1.39; 95% CI:1.30-1.49). The risk was also elevated for severe rhinoconjunctivitis (OR=1.32, 95% CI: 1.04-1.68, and OR=1.73, 95% CI: 1.50-2.00, respectively) and severe eczema (OR=1.30, 95% CI: 1.05-1.61 and OR=1.70, 95% CI: 1.48-1.95, respectively) in both age groups. Similar patterns were seen for regional analyses and with current symptoms of these conditions.

“If the association between fast foods and the symptom prevalence of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema is causal, then the findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally,” the researchers wrote.

Inversely, fruit consumption at least once or twice a week was associated with a significant protective effect against current wheezing (OR=0.90, 95% CI: 0.83-0.97), severe asthma (OR=0.89, 95% CI: 0.82-0.98), and severe rhinoconjunctivitis (OR=0.72, 95% CI: 0.56-0.93) among children. This protective effect extended to severe eczema (OR=0.90, 95% CI: 0.82-0.98) among children who consumed fruit three or more times a week.

Study limitations included the potential for self-report bias or misclassification, lack of data on socioeconomic status’ effect on food consumption and missing temporal data on disease outcome relative to diet.

The researchers called for additional research to better understand the protective association between fruit and vegetables and severe asthma, severe conjunctivitis and severe eczema.


  1. Ellwood P et al. Thorax 2013; doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2012-202285.