Aukland, New Zealand—Do the damaging effects of fast food go beyond obesity? Yes, according to new research published in Thorax. The large study headed by researchers from the University of Aukland found that fast food may also be linked to an increased severity of asthma, eczema and rhinitis in children.

The study was conducted as part of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). It included over 319,000 13–14 year olds and over 181,000 6–7 year olds from around the world. Researchers asked the teens or the children’s parents about their diets and whether or not they had symptoms of asthma, eczema and rhinitis.

Three or more servings of fast food per week were linked to a 39% increased risk of severe asthma in teenagers, and a 27% increased risk in children. Overall, three or more servings of fast food per week contributed to an increased risk of severe eczema and rhinitis in both groups.

Fruit consumption reduced the severity of symptoms. Three or more servings of fruit a week resulted in an 11% reduction of severity in teens, and a 14% reduction in children.

Researchers believe that the increased severity of symptoms may be due to the high content of saturated and fatty acids in fast food, which could negatively affect the immune system. Fruit, on the other hand, is a good source of antioxidants and has other health benefits, which is why it has a protective effect in teens and children, according to the study authors.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2013