Junking our health?

There are an increasing number of studies being published that relate health to diet. Recently, one suggests there is evidence showing that fast food caused asthma and other allergic conditions http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21009654.

This study is related to an ongoing international research programme into asthma and allergies in childhood. It concludes that those children who eat fast food more than three times a week have up to a 39% increase in allergic conditions. Those who ate fresh fruit 3 times a week or more cut the risk of asthma and allergies by 11% or more.

For me, this study is interesting as it points to a causal relationship between the food we put in our bodies and our health – chronic conditions that require medication and can be life threatening are being created by poor diets. And the fact that such a small amount of fruit a week can make a positive difference is staggering – how much more if fresh produce was consumed in abundance?

The problem with research studies such as these, or any medical research really, is they never give firm ‘proof’, it’s all incidental. There will always be those few who eat junk food all their lives and never suffer any ill effects, same as those who can smoke 20 cigarettes a day and not suffer from lung cancer or other respiratory disease. But this study is big – 500,000 children in 50 countries, so it’s pretty persuasive.

In todays Western diet, many children and adults eat junk food a lot more than 3 times a week. And chronic health problems including obesity, diabetes, asthma, heart disease to name a few continue to increase. So will this information change anything? Sadly, probably not. Whilst there are medicines to ‘manage’ these diseases, there’s not much incentive to really get to the root of the problem. And fast food is such big business is it really going to harm them? Probably not.

Hopefully, though, some will listen up and make a change. Asthma and allergies can be debilitating at any age, but in children it always seems so much worse. The medications and treatments can be unpleasant in themselves with their own potential side effects, and it’s pretty scary rushing a child to hospital with an asthma attack in the middle of the night.

For us, we’ve realised that dairy has a definite causal link to my son’s asthma, something we’ve only just discovered (but that’s another posting). Fortunately, he’s of an age where he can make his own conclusions and is willing to try alternatives. So hopefully now we can keep him off dairy, off the meds and wheeze free. Lots more fruit and veg for him!