Q: Is it true that eating fast foods causes eczema?
A: Evidence is mounting that diet can influence the frequency and severity of eczema and other atopic disorders, like asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). As a whole, these studies suggest that eating a diet enriched the polyphenols found in whole cereals and nuts, as well as one enriched in fruits would have a protective effect. In contrast, the consumption of foods enriched in ‘n-6’ fatty acids, which are abundant in commonly used vegetable oils, like corn or soybean oil, seems to favor the development of eczema and asthma.
To address this issue further, the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) obtained information about diet, including the frequency of fast food consumption, obtained via questionnaires sent to almost 800,000 parents and children in over 50 countries. The results of the study support earlier impressions that consumption of fruit is protective, but more importantly, that atopic disorders, including eczema, worsen with high rates of fast food consumption.
We are certainly no fans of fast foods, but a major problem with this study is that excessive fast food consumption clusters with certain cultures and lower socioeconomic classes. These populations tend to live in the most crowded urban settings, with higher exposures to cockroach and dust mite antigens. Therefore, it is possible that the observed dietary effects could reflect where you live, as much or more that what you eat.
Bottom Line: Although the conclusions of this study may not be as clear-cut as the the authors propose, there is no reason not to recommend a diet enriched in fruits and vegetables and with minimal exposure to fast foods in patients with or predisposed to eczema and other atopic disorders. In fact, that’s good advice for everyone.