Asthma, eczema, and nasal allergies are known as the atopic (allergic) diseases of childhood because they are related to each other and they often arise during childhood. They all involve an allergic reaction that manifests in a different area of the body—asthma in the lungs, eczema on the skin, and allergies in the nasal passages.

A recent study published in the journal Thorax examined data from over 319,000 13–14 year olds from 51 different countries and over 181,000 six to seven year olds from 31 countries to determine what dietary and lifestyle factors had an influence on the atopic diseases in children.

The researchers found that eating three or more weekly servings of fast food was linked to a 39 percent increased risk of severe asthma among teens and a 27 percent increased risk among children, as well as to the severity of nasal allergies and eczema.

Fortunately, they also found a protective food—fruit. Eating three or more weekly servings of fruit was associated with a reduction in symptoms between 11 and 14 percent in teens and children. The authors suggest that the high amounts of saturated and trans fats found in fast food may contribute to the worsening of symptoms, and the antioxidants found in fruit may contribute to the improvement.

They emphasize that more studies are needed to confirm whether the association is causal, though the consistency of their results suggest it is. “If the associations between fast foods and the symptom prevalence of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis [nasal allergies], and eczema is causal, then the findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally.”

Certainly, fast food is not good for us. Not only is the vast majority of fast food nutrient poor and calorie dense (few nutrients yet plenty of calories), it’s full of inflammatory omega-6 fats, additives and preservatives, factory farmed meat, and GMOs. It’s no wonder a diet higher in these foods is linked to the allergic conditions of childhood. Our bodies simply do not know how to process them in a healthy way. I know life is hectic and fast food is, well, fast, but the health ramifications aren’t worth the time saved. We’ve got to find another way to feed our children.