Weighty evidence that burgers are bad for asthma

As if we need another reason to sit down and cook at home to avoid fast foods, a systematic review of the evidence has found quick and easy but low quality fast foods are associated with current and severe asthma.

The review, which identified 16 relevant studies from more than 4,000 citations, found fast food consumption but particularly hamburgers, was also associated with asthma at any time, current wheeze and wheeze at any time.

In secondary outcomes, they found fast foods also associated with physician-diagnosed allergic rhinitis, severe eczema, rhinoconjunctivitis and severe rhinoconjunctivitis.

The association was seen in both middle and high-income countries.

And there was a unhealthy dose-response pattern to fast food consumption, with odds ratios of asthma and allergies increasing when fast foods were eaten three or more times each week compared to once or twice per week. Odds ratio ranged from 1.21 to 1.65.

“In terms of different types of fast food consumption, hamburger, but not takeaway or carbonated soft drink intake, was associated with severe/ever asthma, current wheeze, (severe) rhino-conjunctivitis and severe eczema,” the study said.

“Furthermore, the poor quality diet that develops when fast foods are regularly included in the diet introduces nutrient deficits that are likely to independently contribute to asthma development and progression.”

They said fruit and vegetables contain many phytochemicals with anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties likely to impact on asthma prevalence and management.

And Australian experts agree it’s time to ‘be afried’ of the impact of fast food on rates of asthma and allergy.

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Alan James from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in WA and Professor Michael Abramson from Monash University in Melbourne said the review provides further evidence for limiting fast food intake.

“It is possible that the consumption of fast food might influence both non-specific airway hyperresponsiveness and allergic sensitivity,” they said.

“The consumption of fast food has a proinflammatory effect and could affect airway responsiveness by increasing airway inflammation.”

They added the review had probably taken the epidemiological evidence as far as possible and there was now a need to explore ‘the various mechanistic possibilities’ via longitudinal and interventional studies.

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