Parents advised to avoid fast food for children

HYDERABAD: The parents should discourage their children from taking fast food meal as it could contain a dose of fat and carbohydrate large enough to cause such changes in brain structure usually associated with drug addiction.

Eminent pediatrician at Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences Jamshoro Dr. Salma Shaikh, while talking APP here on Thursday, said that Pakistani children seem to be gone through a palate change with desire for food that is fast and processed.

Expressing concerns over changing eating habits of children she said that fresh and dry fruits were out for many Pakistani children and have been replaced by cookies, colas and candies etc. The fact is worrying pediatricians who identify junk food as one of the culprits behind the rapid rise of asthma and allergies in children.

She said thousands of the children aged between 6 to 14 year, in posh residences and slums, were tested for asthma and allergies and according to pediatricians the prevalence of asthma was 19 percent and allergic rhinitis was more than 30 percent among them.

Highlighting the link between diet and asthma, Dr. Salma Shaikh pointed out that dependence on fast food instead of fresh fruits and vegetables was the cause of increasing asthma among children. She elaborated that In a comparison of some one 100 children with asthma symptoms and about 200 non-asthmatic children in Pakistan, it showed that those who had the lowest intakes of vegetables, milk, vitamin-E and minerals were more likely to suffer from the disease.

Dr. Salma Shaikh said that the children whose diets were low in vegetables and vitamin-E were two to three times more likely to develop asthmatic symptoms than other children irrespective of other factors such as family size, affluence and parental smoking.

“Parents and teachers need to identify asthma as a growing problem and most important is that we must relearn our eating habits” she emphasized and added that asthma, the most common chronic childhood disease, is one of the fastest growing ailments with cases increasing by up to 50 percent every 10 years. Reports indicate that around 150 million people worldwide suffer from the condition, she added.

She said that the eating hamburgers, chips and fat-loaded junk foods could be addictive and putting on weight may involve more than simply a loss of self-control.

She informed that a recent research indicated that processed foods like pre-made frozen dinners, chips, sodas, cookies, crackers and fast foods also leads to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Dr. Salma Shaikh said that link between junk food, high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes is mainly the processing of the foods which removes a lot of the natural nutrients originally in the food.

She said that fruits or natural fruit juices, which contain fructose, are tremendously different from high-fructose products derived from corn and a really good fruit to eat are blueberries due to their high anti-oxidant value.

Any fruit that has vibrant colors will give plenty of nutrients and support the health of the people, she said.

She expressed her concern over increasing obesity and termed it as alarming for human beings, as it claimed 70 percent of sudden death or high cost long term hospitalization draining the family income and creating uneconomical sorry state of affairs for the families.

Eating fibrous food like vegetables and fruits is the best way to reduce the weight as it will help to avoid putting on extra weight and refrain eating fatty and junk foods.

She was of the view that heroin addicts who are denied of their high dose of fat and sugar can experience withdrawal symptoms and need increasing quantities to feel the same level of satisfaction.