Less access to good food increases child asthma risk

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Children living in a food desert – an urban area where it is difficult to buy affordable, good-quality fresh food – are at increased risk of asthma.

Children who were studied who did not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables had higher rates of asthma than children who did have access.

A study being presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting examined the charts of 2,043 kids aged 6-18 years who were seen for well child visits. They determined that 57% of the children lived at least half a mile from a grocery store, and 10% lived at least one mile away.

“We found that 21% of the children who lived in a food desert had asthma, compared to a 17% rate for the children who didn’t live in a food desert,” says allergist Dr DeVon Preston, ACAAI member and lead study author.

More research needs to be done on the connection between eating healthy foods and reducing the risk for asthma, but there is some evidence that people who eat diets richer in certain vitamins have a lower incidence of asthma.

“In this study, we have factored in the presence of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and obesity as other conditions that can affect asthma control,” said allergist Dr Maripaz Morales, ACAAI member and study co-author. “It’s difficult to get any kid to eat the right amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, but kids who live in a food desert are at an even greater disadvantage.”

Good nutrition is important for everyone, regardless of the specific link between asthma and diet. It’s especially important for those with a chronic disease such as asthma. Your body may be more susceptible to illness and respiratory viruses that can trigger asthma attacks when you aren’t getting the right nutrients.

Abstract
Introduction: Our goal was to compare the prevalence of pediatric asthma between groups of patients by food desert status, while controlling for allergic rhinitis and overweight/obesity. We hypothesized that the prevalence of asthma will be higher in food deserts.
Methods: This retrospective chart review of patients, aged 6 to 18 years, who were seen between 01/01/2014 and 03/31/2015 for well-child/routine immunization visits. 2043 patients were included and food desert status was determined using the USDA Food Access Research Atlas tool. We modeled the relationship using logistic regression.
Results: 57.81% of the sample (n=1181) lived at least 0.5 miles away from a grocery store, while 10.87% of the sample (n=222) lived at least one mile away form a grocery store. 21% of the children within this sample who lived in a food desert have asthma, compared to 17% asthma rate for the children who did not live in a food desert. Living farther than a mile from a grocery store was associated with 53% higher odds of having asthma, after controlling for obesity and allergic rhinitis (OR = 1.53, 95% CI [1.06,2.23], p=0.022), compared to children who did not live in a food desert. Living between the 0.5 mile to 1 mile designation from a grocery store, or whole food source, was not significantly related to asthma.
Conclusions: Our study shows that living farther than one mile from a grocery store could modify risk for asthma development. Further study is needed to identify how access to fresh foods impacts asthma risk.

Authors
D Preston, M Morales, A Plunk

2016 Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology material
Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology abstract


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