American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting

American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting

Perspective from Myron Zitt, MD
November 14, 2016
2 min read

Children living in urban 'food deserts' at higher risk for asthma

Perspective from Myron Zitt, MD
You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Children who lived in a ‘food desert’ — an urban area with limited access to affordable or good-quality fresh fruits and vegetables — exhibited a 53% higher rate of asthma, according to findings presented at the 2016 American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting.

“We have factored in the presence of allergic rhinitis and obesity as other conditions that can affect asthma control,” researcher Maripaz Morales, MD, from the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Virginia, said in a press release. “It’s difficult to get any kid to eat the right amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, but kids who live in a food desert are at an even greater disadvantage.”

To ascertain whether a child’s residence inside a food desert affected asthma incidence, the researchers retrospectively examined the charts of patients aged 6 to 18 years (n = 2,043), who were seen for well-child or routine immunization visits between January 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015.

The researchers determined food desert status through use of the USDA Food Access Research Atlas tool; the affiliation between food desert status and asthma incidence was then modeled using logistic regression. The researchers observed that 57.81% of their sample (n = 1,181) lived no less than 0.5 miles away from a grocery store, while 10.87% of the sample (n = 222) lived at least 1 mile away.

“We found that 21% of the children who lived in a food desert had asthma, compared to a 17% rate for the children who didn’t live in a food desert,” DeVon Preston, MD, from the Eastern Virginia Medical School, said in the release.

Based on this modeling study, the researchers determined that living farther than 1 mile from a grocery store was linked to 53% higher odds of having asthma, after controlling for obesity and allergic rhinitis (OR = 1.53; 95% CI, 1.06-2.23; P = .022), vs. children who did not live in a food desert. However, the researchers found no statistically significant difference in asthma risk between children living 0.5 mile from a grocery store and those living 1 mile distance away.

“Our study shows that living farther than one mile from a grocery store could modify risk for asthma development,” the researchers wrote. “Further study is needed to identify how access to fresh foods impacts asthma risk.”by Bob Stott

Preston D, et al. Abstract #O022. Presented at: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting; Nov. 11-14, 2016; San Francisco.