Salt and sedentary habits contribute to childhood asthma

February 4, 2011

Children who consume unhealthy diets, watch too much television, or spend too much time playing video games instead of playing outdoors are likely to experience a higher prevalence of asthma symptoms than children who are more active and follow a healthier, Mediterranean-style dietary model. The research appeared in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

 

Children who consume unhealthy diets, watch too much television, or spend too much time playing video games instead of playing outdoors are likely to experience a higher prevalence of asthma symptoms than children who are more active and follow a healthier, Mediterranean-style dietary model.

The study of 700 Greek children aged 10 to 12 years found that participants who reported eating foods high in sodium, including fast-food hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, and popcorn, more than 3 times a week were almost 5 times more likely overall to have asthma symptoms than those who reported never or rarely eating salty snack foods.

Among children who reported eating salty snacks at least 3 times a week and watching TV or playing video games more than 2 hours per day, the prevalence of asthma symptoms rose to almost 6 times more than those children who reported the same amount of screen time but who rarely or never consumed salty snack foods. Boys were more likely than girls to display asthma symptoms.

Processed foods are high in sodium, which can increase the risk of bronchial hypersensitivity and wheezing symptoms in children. However, a Mediterranean-style diet high in vegetables, fresh fruits, cereals, and olive oil provide fiber and antioxidants that can reduce oxidative stress-related inflammatory disease. The current study showed that adherence to the low-sodium Mediterranean diet was independently associated with a lower likelihood of asthma symptoms irrespective of hours of TV/video game viewing.

The researchers say that persons who care for children should focus on changing unhealthy behaviors from the early stages of life in order to address the increasing prevalence of asthma in this population.

The research appeared in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Arvaniti F, Priftis KN, Papadimitriou A, et al. Salty-snack eating, television or video-game viewing, and asthma symptoms among 10- to 12-year-old children: the PANACEA study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(2):251-257.