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Could Western Diet Be Cause of Rise in Allergies?
 Allergies Center Feature Story

Could Western Diet Be Cause of Rise in Allergies?
High-fat, high-sugar eating affects healthy bacteria in body, study finds

Could Western Diet Be Cause of Rise in Allergies?

(HealthDay News) -- The typical Western diet, already blamed for contributing to obesity, may also be linked to the steady increase in allergies.

The finding stems from a study by researchers from the University of Florence. They compared fecal samples from 30 healthy children, 1 to 6 years old -- half from a rural village in West Africa and the others from Florence, Italy.

The African children consumed a diet largely comprised of cereals, legumes and vegetables, with little meat protein. The Italian children ate a higher-calorie diet, with a relatively large amount of sugar, fat and meat -- the so-called Western diet.

Through DNA analyses, the study revealed that the high fat and sugar diet of the Italian kids reduced the amount and diversity of healthy bacteria along their digestive tracts. They also had more microbes linked with obesity and fewer inflammation-fighting fatty acids than the African children.

The researchers concluded that the Western diet has altered the number and type of bacteria in people's guts, contributing to the rising prevalence of various allergic and autoimmune diseases.

"The problem is we eat too much cheap, convenient food because it's our lifestyle, and that can contribute to allergies," Marianne Grant, a registered dietitian and health educator at Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, told HealthDay.

There are however, a number of ways families that adhere to a Western diet can limit their fat, cholesterol and sugar intake, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. For a healthier diet, the academy suggests that you:

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables readily available.
  • Opt for whole-grain bread and cereals.
  • Choose low-fat or skim milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Include starchy foods, such as potatoes, pasta and rice in meals.
  • Avoid high-fat and high-calorie condiments, such as butter, sour cream and gravy.
  • Select lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef cuts. Also be sure to trim away visible fat and skin from meat and poultry.
  • Opt for margarine and vegetable oils, such as canola, corn, olive, sunflower and soybean oils.
  • Avoid rich or creamy desserts.
  • When possible, use fat-free cooking techniques, such as baking, broiling, poaching, grilling or steaming.
  • Avoid using butter or margarine when preparing or serving meat or vegetables.

The number of people who suffer from allergies has been on the rise since the early 1980s, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that 50 million people in the United States -- one in five Americans -- suffer from allergies, including indoor and outdoor allergies, food and drug allergies, as well as skin and eye allergies. The foundation also notes that allergy is the fifth leading chronic disease in the United States among all age groups and the third most common among children and teens.

On the Web

To learn more about allergies, visit the Nemours Foundation.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Marianne Grant, R.D., registered dietitian and health educator, Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center, Corpus Christi, Texas; Aug. 2-6, 2010, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (; Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (; American Academy of Pediatrics (
Author: Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Publication Date: July 31, 2011
Copyright © 2011 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

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