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Salty snacks increase asthma risk in children, study

By Helen Glaberson , 27-Jan-2011

New research suggests that children who consume salty snacks more than three times a week are almost six times more likely to have asthma symptoms.

According to the scientists, who published their findings in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, salty foods are high in sodium, which can increase the risk of bronchial hyper-responsiveness and wheezing symptoms in children.

“The consumption of fast food in children has increased from 2 per cent of total energy in the late 1970s to 10 per cent in the 1990s,” said the authors, who claim that sodium intake could potentially exacerbate asthma as hypersensitized bronchial smooth muscle could be leaky to sodium leading to hyperpolarization of the muscle.

Asthma was even more prominent in children who watched TV or played video games more than two hours per day, according to the study, the goal of which was to evaluate the association of salty-snack eating and television/video-game viewing with childhood asthma symptoms.

“Another important factor that has been changing in recent decades is the amount of time that children spend watching television or playing video games.

“TV viewing has several deleterious effects on children’s health because it promotes sedentary behaviour Moreover, consumption of fruit and vegetables is strongly reduced during TV viewing and consumption of salty snacks is increased,” said the researchers.
However, the scientists stressed that the relationship between fast-food consumption and asthma is not yet confirmed.

Methodology and Results

The cross-sectional study consisted of 700 children from the ages of 10 and 12 years old, living in and around Athens.

A questionnaire developed for the purposes of the PANACEA study (Physical Activity, Nutrition and Allergies in Children Examined in Athens) retrieved information about age, sex, school class, dietary habits, and physical activity status, which was completed by all the children.

A Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) was administered to all children and was completed by their parents during face-to-face interviews.

Daily consumption of meals was measured, along with frequency of consumption of snacks, which were categorized into two main types: salty snacks (such as hamburger, pizza, hot dog, toast, cheese pie, all kind of crisps, popcorn) and sweet snacks (such as ice cream, milkshake, all kinds of chocolate, croissant, cakes, biscuits).

In order to evaluate asthma symptoms, children’s parents completed the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood questionnaire.

Overall lifetime prevalence of asthma symptoms was 23.7 per cent. Forty-eight percent of children reported salty-snack consumption. Of those, almost one third reported eating salty snacks almost every other day.

Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association

Published online ahead of print: doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.051

Salty-Snack Eating, Television or Video-Game Viewing, and Asthma Symptoms among 10- to 12-Year-Old Children: The PANACEA Study

Authors: F. Arvaniti, K. Priftis, A. Papadimitriou, P. Yiallouros, M. Kapsokefalou, M. Anthracopoulos, and D. Panagiotakos.

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