Sugar Intake Linked to Kids' Asthma?
Diet Rich in Sweets Could Promote Kids' Asthma, Study Shows
March 17, 2008 (Philadelphia) -- Sugar might do more than just plump up our
children, it could also help give them asthma, animal research suggests.
Asthma now affects nearly 9% of children and
teens, a figure that has doubled since the 1980s, according to a study
published last year.
Poor eating habits, including frequent consumption of candy and other sugary
foods, are among factors blamed for the increase of
asthma in children and teens, says Sonja Kierstein, PhD, of the Nestle
Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Kierstein and colleagues hypothesized that a sugar-rich
diet may prime the immune system of the airways to allergic inflammation.
The inflammation, in turn, can cause a narrowing of the airways and mucus
production, resulting in
asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.
Kierstein, who performed the study while at the University of Pennsylvania,
presented the findings here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of
Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Mice, Like Kids, Can't Get Enough Sugar
To test their theory, the researchers studied two groups of mice. One group
was given water. The other mice were offered sugar-laced water and allowed to
drink up -- as much as they wanted.
"Their behavior was just like in kids," Kierstein tells WebMD.
"Once they tasted [the sugar water], they went back again and
Both groups of mice were then injected with an allergen in an effort to make
them more tolerant to that allergen. The idea of tolerance is to strengthen the
immune system to fight off the effects of a future exposure to that allergen.
Allergens are substances that can cause allergic reactions such as runny noses
and hives and can trigger asthma symptoms.
Then, both groups of mice were reinjected with the same allergen and the
researchers looked at whether there was any difference in how susceptible the
two groups were to inflammation in the airways and the allergic response.
"What we found," Kierstein says, "is that the sugar-fed mice had
more than twice as much airway inflammation as the water-fed mice. Their immune
systems were more activated. This makes them more susceptible to
Asriani M. Chiu, MD, a pediatric allergist at the Medical College of
Wisconsin in Milwaukee, says the findings provide "one more reason to
encourage our children to eat less sugar."
One simple way to cut back on your kid's sugar intake is to replace soda and
sugar-laden fruit punch with juices that don't have any added sugar, Chiu tells
"Read the labels," she advises. "Some parents are not aware that
high-fructose corn syrup, an ingredient in many fruit drinks, is just another
form of sugar."