Respiratory health outcomes are among the top five causes of child morbidity and
mortality around the world. We aimed to investigate possible food-related risk and protective
factors for respiratory health outcomes in children. Structured questionnaires completed by
primary caregivers of 10-year old children were used to collect information on demographics,
socio-economic status, house characteristics and child respiratory health status. Upper (URIs) and
Lower (LRIs) respiratory illnesses comprised hay fever, and wheezing, asthma and bronchitis,
respectively. Eight hundred questionnaires were distributed, 648 retrieved and 420 completed in
full (52.5% response rate). The hay fever 6-month prevalence was 22.4% and wheezing had the
highest 6-month prevalence among the LRIs (13.8%). The majority of children ate vegetables (75.5%),
fruit (69.3%) and chicken or fish (81.7%) regularly. Nearly half of the children (45.5%) regularly
ate processed food. Eating processed food regularly was statistical significantly associated with
wheeze (Adjusted Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.65; 95% CI: 1.38–5.08), hay fever (OR = 1.62; 95% CI: 1.09–2.64)
and bronchitis (OR = 1.27; 95% CI: 1.06–2.56). The study found an association between regular
consumption of processed foods and wheeze, hay fever and bronchitis among 10 year old children.
The regular consumption of processed food plays a role in adverse respiratory health effects among
children and healthy eating is emphasized.
Antony J. Mundackal collected the data as part of his MSc research project under
the supervision of JanineWichmann and Caradee Y.Wright at the School of Health Systems and Public Health,
University of Pretoria.