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- The ARC - California Edition -

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Health Promotion

Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in the United States, and it can be life threatening. It is currently considered by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be an incurable condition. 

Researchers estimate that it afflicts over 15 million Americans, including almost 5 million children. Many of these people already have to cope with a developmental disability of some form, and then they must also cope with asthma.

The CDC has presented the position that much has been learned about how we can prevent asthma. This information may still need to be placed into sound public health practice.

Last year, the medical journal Thorax presented a research paper that argued that diets rich in junk food may be the culprits behind the rapid rise of asthma and allergies in children. 

Scientists from Scotland and Saudi Arabia had performed the work behind the study. These two countries have lifestyles and rates of allergies, which are significantly different.

Their work involved comparing 100 children with asthma symptoms and about 200 non-asthmatic children. The results showed that those who had the lowest intakes of vegetables, milk, vitamin E and minerals were more likely to suffer from asthma.

When a child’s diet did not include very many vegetables or vitamin E, the researchers concluded that these children would be 2 to 3 times more likely to have asthma problems. 

Scottish children often live in a more urban area and consume what is considered a poor diet usually associated with junk food, the researchers reported. 

This definition included “western-type frozen and prepared foods.” A dramatic increase in asthma within Scotland corresponded to a major decline in the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed in their diets during the past 30 years.

Children who lived in rural areas and consumed a traditional Saudi Arabian diet were less at risk. The Saudi population usually eats a diet consisting of chicken, lamb, rice, vegetables, fruit, dates, and they consume a lot of cow or goat’s milk.

Another asthma study was reported during the same timeframe in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

These researchers had followed over 1000 children since their birth in an attempt to learn whether young children who were exposed to a risk of infections during day care might in turn become protected against allergic diseases.

Their findings were that attendance at day care during the first six months of life did protect against the development of asthma and frequent wheezing later in childhood. 

The researchers also concluded that the presence of one or more older siblings at home also had a similar impact. 


Sources of Additional Asthma Information

(Siblings, Day-Care Attendance, and the Risk of Asthma and Wheezing during Childhood: T.M. Ball et al; NEJM, August 24, 2000, 343)

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