Background: Lifestyle changes over the last 30 years are the most likely explanation for the increase in allergic disease over this period.
Aim: This study tests the hypothesis that the consumption of fast food is related to the prevalence of asthma and allergy.
Methods: As part of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) a cross-sectional prevalence study of 1321 children (mean age = 11.4 years, range: 10.1-12.5) was conducted in Hastings, New Zealand. Using standard questions we collected data on the prevalence of asthma and asthma symptoms, as well as food frequency data. Skin prick tests were performed to common environmental allergens and exercise-induced bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) was assessed according to a standard protocol. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated as weight/height2 (kg/m2) and classified into overweight and obese according to a standard international definition.
Results: After adjusting for lifestyle factors, including other diet and BMI variables, compared with children who never ate hamburgers, we found an independent risk of hamburger consumption on having a history of wheeze [consumption less than once a week (OR = 1.44, 95% CI: 1.06-1.96) and 1+ times a week (OR = 1.65, 95% CI: 1.07-2.52)] and on current wheeze [consumption less than once a week (OR = 1.17, 95% CI: 0.80-1.70) and 1+ times a week (OR = 1.81, 95% CI: 1.10-2.98)]. Takeaway consumption 1+ times a week was marginally significantly related to BHR (OR = 2.41, 95% CI: 0.99-5.91). There was no effect on atopy.
Conclusions: Frequent consumption of hamburgers showed a dose-dependent association with asthma symptoms, and frequent takeaway consumption showed a similar association with BHR.