Health & Spirit

Junk food linked to kids' food allergies

By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. on

One of America's first junk foods was a confection of popcorn and peanuts smothered in molasses called Cracker Jacks. The company marketed their product to children, who joined the Cracker Jacks Mystery Club to uncover hidden prizes inside the boxes.

Now, 123 years later, junk food still has plenty of surprises -- none are much fun. New research out of the University of Naples Federico II (founded in 1224!) shows that prepackaged snack foods, microwave meals and roasted or barbequed meats contain compounds that are driving an increase in the incidence of children's food allergies.

These compounds, called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), are produced from proteins and fats that change in composition when exposed to sugars. They've already been linked to the development and progression of diabetes, atherosclerosis and neurological disorders, including dementia. This is the first time an association has been found between AGEs and food allergy.

Daily, over a third of U.S. children consume fast and ultraprocessed foods, chronically exposing them to AGEs. No wonder around 8% of kids in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a food allergy -- milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts, fish and shellfish account for 90%.

You can reduce your child's risk by checking ingredient labels. If you see a word you can't pronounce, chances are that food contains AGEs. Better choices for snacks include apples and nut butter, vegetables and hummus, and yes, dark chocolate. Ditch AGEs, and your kids will stay healthier as you all age.

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Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit

(c) 2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2019 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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