Not Eating Puts Kids at Risk of Asthma, Study Shows

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Medical Conditions, In The News, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Health & Safety: Tweens, Social & Emotional Growth: Tweens, Nutrition: Tweens, Research Reveals: Tweens, Health & Safety: Teens, Social & Emotional Growth: Teens, Nutrition: Teens, Research Reveals: Teens

Not Eating Puts Kids at Risk of Asthma

Hunger has profound effects on health. Credit: Getty Images

Health experts have long warned us that not eating can cause an incurable medical condition known as "death."

However, you don't have to wait until the worms play pinochle on your snout to have breathing problems. Not eating can lead to asthma much sooner than that -- especially in children.

Kids who don't eat enough and have chronic bouts of hunger are at an increased risk of developing asthma and other illnesses, Canadian researchers concluded.

Business Week reports researchers at the University of Calgary in Alberta found children and youth who don't have enough to eat are at an increased risk of poor health, and repeated episodes of hunger may put them at risk for chronic diseases such as asthma.

The finding comes from an analysis of data from a Canadian survey of 5,809 children ages 10 to 15 and 3,333 children ages 16 to 21. The surveys were conducted from 1994 to 2005.

During that six year period, 3.3 percent of the young children and 3.9 percent of the older kids experienced hunger at some point. At least 1.1 percent of children and 1.4 percent of youth went hungry on two or more occasions. In the final survey, 13.5 percent of children and 28.6 percent of youth reported poor health.

Rates of poor health among those who had experienced hunger were higher than among those who had never gone hungry (32.9 percent of children and 47.3 percent of youth who had gone hungry were in poor health, compared with 12.8 percent of children and 27.9 percent of youth who had not).

Business Week reports the researchers also found that youth who went hungry more than once during the survey were at an increased risk for asthma

Sharon Kirkpatrick, the leader of the study, was at the University of Calgary at the time and now works for the the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. She and her colleagues published their findings in the August issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"The mechanism by which childhood hunger negatively affects health is not well understood," Kirkpatrick's team writes in the report. "Food insecurity has been associated with emotional and psychological stress among children, which could exert a negative effect on general health and contribute to heightened risk of chronic diseases."

The findings add to evidence that "hunger is a serious risk factor for long-term poor health among children and youth, pointing to the relevance of severe food insecurity as an identifiable marker of vulnerability," researchers conclude.

Related: Could Food Allergies Be Causing Your Child's Asthma?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.