June 4th, 2010
12:40 PM ET

Burgers hinder breathing?

by Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

Burgers may be cheap, quick and juicy, but America's favorite fast food could have more health implications than just clogged arteries or indigestion.

European researchers found “high burger consumption was associated with higher lifetime asthma prevalence” for children, according to findings published in the recent issue of the journal Thorax. High burger consumption consists of eating three or more a week.

Dr. Gabriele Nagel in the Institute of Epidemiology at Ulm University, Germany and his colleagues analyzed data collected on 50,000 children for 10 years in 20 rich and poor countries to explore how diet could affect asthma or food allergies.

Parents in the study were asked about their children’s normal diet and whether they had ever been had asthma and/or have had wheeze.

Healthier foods like fruit, vegetables and fish, and the Mediterranean diet were associated with a lower lifetime prevalence of asthma.

Burgers,  not so much.

This could be because “fast food is rich in industrially hydrogenated vegetable fats such as margarine and meat from ruminant animals which are dietary sources of trans-fatty acids,” researchers wrote.

Health advocates have blamed burgers and fast food  for childhood obesity rates. Group tells Ronald McDonald to take a hike.

Researchers say it might not just be the burgers.  "The frequency of burger consumption could be considered as a proxy for unknown lifestyle factors which may vary depending on the societal context, environmental and other lifestyle factors," they wrote.

Read the abstract here.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (956 Responses)
  1. Jack

    I would submit to you that people who ride public trasnsportation tend to be poor and tend to eat more burgers. Ergo public transportation is bad.

    June 4, 2010 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. LKJ

    The problem isn't beef itself. Cattle are kept in factory farms under unimaginable conditions. Besides, who know what they put in those fast food burgers? How many additives and preservative?

    June 4, 2010 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Paul

    That phd doctor up their cleared it up for me and made the article clearer because there was no connection just suggested life style influences.

    June 4, 2010 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Paul K

    That is a good point! I remember the old days before fast foods ever existed.

    On vacations or trips, we would stop at restaurants or diners. The food was served healthy. Even tho hamburgers were served. I realized that all food came from scratch. Healthy process.

    There were no whatever chemicals they put in food.

    I feel bad for today's children. I have never seen so many unhealthy kids in today's generation.

    Yes, the blame weighs on fast food chains and their promotions. They throw in a lot of fat in sauces, food, etc. They just look at making a fast buck. They do not care about good old fashioned meals that are served with heart and time.

    It is time to regulate fast food chains. Tell CEOs and boards that they need to stop profiteering on poor people including children!

    June 4, 2010 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. tdizzle

    that hamburger looks delicious right now!

    June 4, 2010 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. essie

    I'm the parent of a 17-year-old vegetarian with asthma who also participates in track and cross-country (that's a 5K race). She starts conditioning in two weeks for cross-country, she will run 40-50 miles per week from June till November. She's been a vegetarian for four years, has never eaten a burger in her life (she didn't like them, only ate chicken or fish when she ate meat). We live in nearly rural conditions, there is no industry here, no large roads or highways, so not much air pollution generated locally, although it could blow in from someplace else. Her asthma is probably genetic, lots of people on both sides have asthma/allergies. Her dad was diagnosed with asthma last year, he has it worse than she does (probably because she is getting lots of exercise). Asthma is a very serious condition, I wish there could be more serious studies (and reporting) on this condition. My aunt lived in the era before asthma treatments existed, her untreated asthma led to heart disease and early death.

    June 4, 2010 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Tim

    Really !?! Fast food burgers are unhealthy, I couldn't have figured that out without a fully funded university study. I want to know how these scientists get these grants, I want to do a study on the effect of money in my lifestyle choices.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Garry-Arkansas

    Well now, when shall we expect the governement to step in and Ban hamburgers? God knows they seem to know better than us what is good for us and not good for us. Expect a ban in a few years...
    Studies are bs anyway..half the time they have no idea what the hell they are talking about.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mari

    Nearly everything we eat is full of chemicals plus the air the land and sea is full of chemicals so what can we all expect! We are a dying race and being selfish creatures we are destroying everything as we go down. What a way to live! Afraid of eating this or that. Disgusting!

    June 4, 2010 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Alexa Fleckenstein M.D.

    It is known for a long time that dairy is a highly inflammatory, mucus-producing food that adds to the burden of asthma, hay fever, chronic sinusitis – not to mention heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, arthritis, auto-immune disease.

    We are neither cows nor calves, and cow milk is an unnatural food for children and grown-ups. But the industry does not want us to talk about it. Dairy adds nothing to bone health – on the contrary. the simple truth is that calcium occurs abundantly in vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains – PLUS the other minerals that are needed for strong bones like magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus, boron, copper, etc. and which are lacking in dairy.

    Soy milk is a good way to shed the milk addiction – but no long-term solution as many people develop soy allergies after a few years.

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. , physician, author.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Josh

    This sounds just like the correlation between the decline of pirates and the rise of global temps and sea level.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Blake

    My son is 5+ yrs old. With regards to meat consumption, he eats only "organic" chicken and beef with the emphasis being on chicken. He's also allergic to wheat (among other things), so he's never had his burger with a bun. He's a big organic fruit and vegetable eater and also takes healthy supplements. He has asthma (diagnosed at 2 yrs old) and no one in our family history has it or has ever had it. Because of his food allergies his diet is very controlled, by me, so he really has only ever had organically raised beef and he does eat a large amount of organic fruits and veggies (also allergic to dairy, eggs, nuts and strawberries). I'm not buying this theory.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Bull

    I have never heard of a bigger bunch of crap.Next,some simple arse
    will blame cheeseburgers for ice melting at the poles.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Amber

    Just one more reason why people just shouldn't eat meat. I have never eaten any type of meat/poultry/fish/dairy in my entire life (I'm 20 now) And I have never had any health problems...

    June 4, 2010 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jess

    It is not expensive to eat well – go to your produce department and check out the prices. Buy canned vegetables and dried beans and grains in bulk. Eating well has nothing to do with expense, but rather ignorance.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Eumir

    Oh boy, more nonsense to whine about!
    Let's all wring our hands and worry to death.
    Get a life CNN!

    June 4, 2010 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Don

    So this is ground beef only, or burgers at fast food chains? I guess I don't get it. What about the ground beef from the grocery store or if I buy and grind my own beef for burgers?

    June 4, 2010 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Carol

    My mother practically raised us on McDonald's hamburgers. None of her 5 children have asthma and she's still going strong at 95 years old and by choice would eat at McDonald's every day if someone was willing to take her there.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Hal

    Norm J Robillard, Ph.D.

    Dr. Robillard, can I just say how grateful I am that instead of you presenting your opinion on the cause as fact, you say "here's what I think it is". Too many quacks (Huffington Post Living section0, minus any evidence, present themselves, their thoughts and their anecdotal evidence as ironclad fact. You have the grace to state what you believe as what it is, an educated opinion. the end result? I'll take your opinion and consider it, rather than toss it out as i do with so many other's "opinion-as-facts".


    June 4, 2010 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Don

    On another note, give me the money that it cost to buy three kids a burger and fries at McDonald's and I'll turn that money into a healthy meal. It can be done. The problem is the parents aren't educated enough to know any better. This information never gets to them.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Dave

    Time for a Big Mac!

    June 4, 2010 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. boocat

    Another dumb study.....six months from now there will be a new study which says this study was wrong...

    June 4, 2010 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jokester

    Please, Norm. You don't have a clue.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Louise Bailey

    My 6 year old suffers terribly from asthma, despite we moved to the English seaside for fresh air, we don't smoke, we don't have pets. We slow cook ALL of our food (I even bake our own breads, I bake their cookies, they have a fruit bowl to frequent for snacks daily...nothing comes from a package) and we only eat seasonal vegetables and fruit that we walk nearby to the green grocers to buy (even growing our own now). Our children are clueless about 'McDonalds'. Our children are clueless about supermarkets....we live simple local lifestyle. We even home education, which means our children don't eat school junk either....and we eat MINIMAL red meat as well. But our 6 year old has severe asthma......she has suffered from respiratory problems since a tiny age that our other children don't suffer from. This news article I'm responding to is full of holes. Fast food is awful for everyone, I don't dispute that, but post good information, not junk.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Connie

    That's a strange assumption and I don't agree with it. My brother and my son both have asthma and were diagnosed at an early age. My brother was less than 3 yrs old when he was diagnosed and my son was just 5 months old. Tell me how a 5 month old can consume enough burgers from McD's to cause him to have asthma. My brother is now 40 yrs old, and when we were little we couldn't afford to eat out and consume 3 burgers a week and he still has asthma. So tell me, what else do you "think" might be the cause of their asthma? I'm sorry, I totally disagree with the study. Asthma is hereditary.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Denise

    I have been eating organic for the past year, making sure I avoid genetically modified ingredients, drank milk without growth hormones and have eaten lots of locally grown fruit and vegetables. I've had no breathing problems whatsoever. It's been a revelation. I've had a history with breathing problems prior to this. When I travel for work I take food with me or seek out healthier alternatives to fast food you find at airports. This past week I've been traveling a lot and found myself eating burgers. Ate one for lunch today too at the most popular burger joint there is and guess what? I am having a very hard time breathing. Saw this article and had to comment. I'll avoid the fast food with all the salt, additives and preservatives. I don't want the processed food. If I eat meat, I am going to know where it comes from. I'll try to stick with the heathy path again. I feel strongly that there is a link to poor heath and fast food, processed food, genetically modified foods. Glad to see more and more articles about this subject. The public needs to be informed.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. BUNK

    lungs and the intestines aren't in the same cavity in the body; GI system is separate from the lungs - esophagus & trachea separate in the throat – that's what the glottis is for. acid in the stomach may reflux into the esophagus from a lax cardiac sphincter, but only in a very rare instance would it reflux up to the glottis & enter the lungs. the acid in the stomach, were it to enter the lungs, would destroy the lung tissue. acid reflux doesn't cause of asthma, particularly in children.

    this study is confusing to people, & what really confuses is the difference between "correlation" and "causation". furthermore, most people have no or very little understanding of physiologic systems & interaction between them, much less at a microscopic level.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. earthlover

    I figured this out for myself 6 years ago when I went vegetarian. I suffered with horrible asthma, since the age of 2, I am now 44.

    After going from 1-3 severe asthma attacks (sometimes requiring hsopitalization, or frequent E.R. vists) in one month, I now have 1-3 asthma (and not even that bad, a couple of puffs from my rescue inhaler and I'm good to go) attacks a YEAR.

    I still live in the same house as I have lived in for the last 10 years along with 3 dogs and a cat. My environment has not changed, just my diet.

    I found that after I went vegetarian, completely cut out meat and most dairy products from my diet, my breathing improved as did some other health issues I had like, allergies and exzema.

    I think we as a country have really have no idea what we are eating. When you are as removed form the flow of food as we are, it stands to reason anything can happen and often does. We have been having horrible out-breaks of foodborne pathogens in supposedly healthy foods, like lettuce and peanut butter.

    Cows are eating ground up, sick other cows, even though cows are herbivores. We no longer can count on companies or our government, which has determined that to keep food safe they are going to irradiate it, killing all the nutrients in it, along with the pathogens they are trying to destroy. Instead of practicing safe farming techniqes and food safe practices in the first place.

    I think we all need a green house in our back yard and grow our own food, oh! wait, we can't do that either because Monsanto owns all the seeds that they are modifying "for our own good".

    It really is a very scary thing we have goiong on here, and we as consumers need to vote with our dollars and start changing the behavior of companies and get our heads out of the sand!

    June 4, 2010 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Chuck

    KIds should eat fewer burgers, but this seems like pretty flimsy science to me. And kind of inuitive knowledge, so useless, too. Kids that eat a bunch of burgers are more likely to be overweight. Kids that are overweight have a whole bunch of health issue knocking on the door. Researches need to quit trying to prove being overweight is bad for your health. Everyone knows this. Let's spend more energy on figuring out why people overeat, eat lousy food, and can't lose weight – and the solutions to THOSE problems.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. R

    And in case you missed it: Unhealthy food is bad for you.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Vel

    Acid Reflux and Asthma both come from eating unhealthy. I used to have bad acid reflux. Now that I am eating healthier (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner) and watching my portions..I don't get acid reflux. As for Asthma...I had a mild case of it. Due to excersize it is gone and I hardly ever have any symptoms if any.

    Fast food = processed crap that is not healthy.

    June 4, 2010 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Amelia

    A meal of beans, rice, and veggies/fruit, is cheaper than a meal at McDonald's for a family. no question about it. But burgers and fries and cokes require no effort, and they taste better. It's not matter of people not being able to afford healthier food. It's convenience and laziness, along with the fact that many people have forgotten what real food - meaning non-processed food - tastes like.

    June 4, 2010 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Tom D.

    This collection of comments is probably the most fascinating bunch I have ever seen on any article anywhere! I couldn't put them down!!

    June 4, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. cf

    Reminds me of a study that found when ice cream sales are high, the crime rate is also high. So eating ice cream causes crime? Hardly. It was a third factor, nice weather, that resulted in both higher ice cream sales as well as more active criminals.

    You can't always conclude that one thing causes another just because you see a correlation between them. Likewise with this case: its not fast food burgers causing asthma; but rather poor living conditions that result in both asthma as well as reliance on cheap, accessible food.

    June 4, 2010 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Bradley Sebastian

    Between this article and his article on CNN's frontpage (Exercise makes your brain work better), is Gupta trying to become the new, reigning Captain Obvious? Where can I get paid to restate what is already common knowledge?

    June 4, 2010 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. bradfdx

    Another example of misleading, sensationalist journalism in the area of science and medicine. I certainly won't argue that it's healthy to eat a lot of burgers but, when the researchers say a factor (such as burger consumption) might "be a proxy for unknown lifestyle factors" it is totally irresponsible to publish a headline and eight paragraphs, before that disclosure, strongly suggesting that the research showed a cause-and-effect relationship. Coincidence and correlation do not equal cause-and-effect. A responsible journalist covering science and medicine must understand that.

    June 4, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Mello

    Soon everything will kill you.

    Burgers hindering breathing my foot. I don't eat very much meat and I do rigorous phyisical training every morning for about 2 hours right before breakfast and I can barely breathe when I run on the track. Stop with the lame excuses and start doing some REAL research. If we stop eating meat altogether, how else are we going to get our protien? Living off of peanut butter? Some people are allergic to that.

    June 4, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Doublethinkpolice

    THOUGHT 1: Oh no! Burgers give you asthma.
    THOUGHT 2: It MIGHT not JUST be the burgers.

    What I love best about this article is that there is no mention of why the researchers believed that the burgers or even some ingredient in them had a causative effect. Sadly, the abstract link requires a login. (Perhaps a link to an abstract that does not require a login would be nice?) My guess? The researchers give no good reason, perhaps no reason at all, for their hypothesis. My reason for this guess? [S] Meh, whatever. But anyway the reason people have more asthma if they eat lots of burgers (if that's even true) is probably that people are allergic to the wheat in the buns or milk or, like, whatever, more than they are allergic to veggies. Or some environmental thing. You know, like, whatever.[/S]

    June 4, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Emma

    If you tend to eat a lot of hamburgers, you are probably deficient in several vitamins and other nutrients that come from healthier foods. The loss of these nutrients takes a hit on your immune system. I'm sure as others have mentioned here, the combination of poor quality food and possible food allergies is most likely the culprit when it comes to the relationship between asthma and hamburgers.

    I think it's just too easy today for people to pull up to a fast food joint and go through the drive through. They are not thinking about the loss of nutrition and high fat/sodium content, but rather the fact that it's easy and convenient. Until people realize what they are doing to their bodies and really care about it, this trend of obesity and the steady rise in obesity related diseases will unfortunately continue.

    Since many parents today don't seem to care about nutrition, children should be educated about food and nutrition from grade school all the way through high school. Really educating children will probably be the only way to reverse the obesity trend in this country. Hopefully well informed children will ask for better foods at home.

    June 4, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Fat Joe

    I speak from personal experience that burgers do prevent you from breathing well. After you are done eating your burger with two cans of coke you can't breathe anymore unless you take a minute to burp and then you can breathe normally again. I always have mild heart burns and almost heart attacks from eating burgers. I try my best to drink water and exercise the fat off. But sometimes that juicy burger calls my name and I can not resist and fall into temptacion and risk a heart attack just to eat a burger. I really need help to help my addiction just needed to vent my situation.

    June 5, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. ken

    When one thing is studied and not others the scientific evidence is flawed. Other factors may be the contributing cause of the asthma.

    June 5, 2010 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Dennis

    I am overweight and love eating burgers when I get a chance I say I eat about seven a week. I sometimes feel heart pain but I think its normal. It goes away after a few minutes and go back to eating burgers. Life is too short to be worrying about dieing over eating burgers your never know next time you get into your car could be the last. So I say eat burgers and don't worry about the consequences worry about that once your in the hospital.

    June 5, 2010 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Adrene Sanders

    My Mom had asthma as do I. She was allergic to corn. She was allergic to beef because the cows ate corn.

    June 5, 2010 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Liz Hoffmann

    The fattest people in the world eat burgers. Ronald should be ashamed of himself.

    June 6, 2010 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. mentordavid

    "The frequency of burger consumption could be considered as a proxy for unknown lifestyle factors which may vary depending on the societal context, environmental and other lifestyle factors"

    Translation: "We are not sure what the correlation is really between Asthma and Burgers. There are too many factors to consider. What we do know is that kids with Asthma seem to eat burgers"

    Not sure I received a whole lot of value out of this article.

    June 6, 2010 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
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    i always take calcium supplements to my bones strong~":

    August 1, 2010 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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    October 30, 2010 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
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