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.
Today, 123 years later, junk food still has plenty of surprises — but 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.
But this is the first time an association has been found between AGEs and food allergies.
Daily, more than one-third of U.S. children consume fast and ultra-processed foods, chronically exposing them to AGEs.
No wonder around 8% of kids in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a food allergy, 90% of which are to milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts, fish, or shellfish
You can reduce your child's risk of food allergies 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.