The medical community has long believed that junk food has been a major contributor in the rise of food allergies among children. But while this has been the standing theory, the potential relationship has been quite elusive; until now.
A recent study out of the University of Naples investigated the potential link between these two. In the study, researchers divided a group of five dozen children between the ages of 6 and 12 into three groups. The first group contained children with known food allergies. The second group contained children with known respiratory allergies. The third and final group contained children with no known allergies.
Sure enough, the study revealed that there is a “significant correlation” between levels of advanced glycation end products and junk food consumption. More importantly, they found that children with food allergies appear to have higher levels of AGEs than children with respiratory allergies or, of course, no allergies.
AGEs, of course, are quite harmful compounds that are formed in the body when protein or fat combine with sugar in the bloodstream. Essentially, the research team said this is the first time any study has identified “compelling evidence” of a potential link between food allergies and AGEs.
Furthermore, the study found that children with higher levels of AGEs also had appeared to have immune cells affected. Also, they found alterations to gut barrier thickness and this caused them to be more vulnerable to food allergies.
More specifically, the study identified roughly 7 percent of children (in the United Kingdom) have food allergies, which is more than twice the proliferation of adults. And more important, these numbers appear to be growing—significantly—in westernized countries; poor diet is a possible explanation for the increase. Other factors, the researchers say, could include things like pollution and a reduced exposure to important microbes which, in turn, degenerate immune response.
All that in mind, the researchers conclude “Current hypotheses and models of food allergies do not adequately explain the dramatic increase observed in the last years. Dietary AGEs from junk food might be the missing link, and our data support this hypothesis.”
Obviously, then, this study is just the beginning. More efforts are definitely needed to better understand this link and develop interventions to reduce its proliferation.