Study Links Fast Food Consumption to Severe Asthma

July 15, 2018

Consumption of fast foods—especially hamburgers—3 or more times per week was more likely to be associated with severe asthma when compared with the consumption of fast foods only 1 to 2 times per week.

A recent study found that the consumption of fast foods—especially hamburgers—3 or more times per week was more likely to be associated with severe asthma when compared with the consumption of fast foods only 1 to 2 times per week, according to a study published in Respirology.

“Fast foods are typically calorically dense, high in refined carbohydrates, sodium, sugar, cholesterol, additives such as preservatives and colourants, with high concentrations of saturated fat,” the authors explained. “Hence, it has been hypothesized that the consumption of fast foods may exacerbate the development and progression of asthma and allergic diseases.”

The researchers carried out the study by searching databases, including MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL). The researchers used a search strategy related to fast foods, asthma/wheeze, and allergic diseases, along with a search of unpublished studies. All cohort, cross-sectional, or case-control studies that explored whether fast food consumption was related to asthma or other allergic were included.

The study defined fast foods as “mass-produced foods prepared and served very quickly, with poor nutritional quality. In general, any foods with less preparation time can be regarded as fast foods, especially foods sold in a restaurant or store with preheated ingredients, and served to the customer in a packaged form for takeout.”

In total, 16 studies were included in the analysis—13 cross-sectional studies and 3 case-control studies. The analysis revealed that severe asthma was associated with the consumption of fast foods. In 5 cross-sectional studies, the consumption of fast foods increased the risk of current wheeze, while risk of wheeze ever was increased in 1 cross-sectional study.

Additionally, fast food consumption was significantly related to physician-diagnosed allergic rhinitis, severe eczema, rhino-conjunctivitis, and severe rhino-conjunctivitis. Specifically, hamburger intake was most prominently associated with allergic diseases in a dose-dependent manner, irrespective of the consumers’ income.

The researchers noted that the study was limited due to the lack of a standard definition for fast foods among the data they analyzed. Therefore, only the initial relationship between asthma and fast food could be explored.

"Additional studies are needed to confirm the relationships seen in this analysis, however, and to identify potential causal associations between the consumption of fast food and allergic diseases," senior author Gang Wang, MD, PhD, of West China Hospital, Sichuan University, said in a statement.

Reference

Wang CS, Wang J, Zhang X, et al. Is the consumption of fast foods associated with asthma or other allergic diseases? [published online July 4, 2018]. Respirology. doi: 10.1111/resp.13339.