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For the record

Does eating junk food lead to allergies? The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, August 2010

A couple of recent articles linked junk food to allergies 1.  The article in the Daily Mail titled ‘Junk food starts allergies’ stated that researchers had found that “Western diets high in red meat, sugar and fat lowered the numbers of healthy bacteria in our guts. Without these microbes to prime the immune system, children are more likely to grow up suffering from asthma, eczema and other allergies”. It referred to a study that compared bacteria in stool samples from European children with that of children living in a rural village in Burkina Faso 2.  The press release of the article itself made such a link: “Industrialized diets may contribute to allergies” 3. Here two dietitians explain why we cannot take such a study to show that junk food causes allergies.

Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist:

“The study compared bacterial differences in stool samples from two groups of children, one group from rural Africa and one from Europe. We know that fecal bacterial compositions can vary for different types of diets, so this is not surprising, but this does not mean that we can then link it to allergies. The children in this study were all healthy and a conclusion that a junk food diet can lead to allergies was not made by the authors even though some of the reporting suggested this.”

Catherine Collins, Principal Dietitian at St George’s Hospital:

“We have hundreds of different bacteria in our bowels, and over half haven’t been identified yet so we don’t know their real function! We know that bacteria work with our body to influence gut immunity and our overall immune system. Some species seem helpful (such as the probiotic bacteria) and some seem potentially harmful. Whilst the type of bacteria can be influenced by the food we eat, research is still needed before any definite ‘links’ are made.”



1 Junk food diet puts children at higher risk of allergies, The Telegraph
Junk food starts allergies: Western high-fat diets are blamed for surge in illnesses, Daily Mail

2 Study in PNAS

3Press release

Author: Sense About Science

Document type: For The Record

Published: 20 August 2010

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