Eating popular fast food such as burgers, nachos and hot dogs three times a week significantly raises people's risk of severe asthma, new research suggests.

Regularly indulging in the fast-food staples increases the risk of sufferers having four or more asthma attacks a year, a Chinese study found.

According to the Daily Mail, mass-produced food also makes people more likely to suffer from hay fever, eczema, nasal congestion and wheezing, which is one of the main symptoms of asthma, the research adds.

The lack of nutrients in such food is thought to cause inflammation in the airways, particularly if it replaces the consumption of healthy produce such as fruit and vegetables.

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According to the Asthma Foundation, asthma affects 700,000 people in New Zealand - that means 1 in every 6 Kiwis suffers from asthma symptoms.

In the UK it affects more than five million people and kills three a day. It also causes 10 fatalities a day in the US.

How the research was carried out

The researchers, from Sichuan University, analysed 16 studies that assessed the link between fast food and asthma, allergies and wheeze.

Fast food was generally defined as preheated ingredients served in a restaurant or shop that is given to customers in take-away packaging.

Participants were asked if they take asthma medication. The condition was considered severe if they were woken by wheeze more than four times in the past year.

Allergies were defined by sneezing, or having a blocked or runny nose, without a cold or flu in the past year. It was severe if people had itchy or watery eyes, or if their daily activities were affected.

Having an itchy rash in the past year defined eczema, with severe cases being those that disturbed sleep at least once a week.

The findings were published in the journal Respirology.

Britons have the worst diet in Europe

This comes after research released last January suggested Britons have the worst diet in Europe.

More than half of the food found in the average Briton's household is highly-processed, which is driving the obesity epidemic and putting people at risk of heart disease and strokes, a study by the University of São Paulo found.

Processed food consumption, such as eating ready meals, biscuits and salami, in the UK is five times higher than in Portugal and nearly four times greater than in France, Greece or Italy, the research adds.

The researchers also found that for every one per cent increase in processed food availability in people's homes, the risk of obesity rises by 0.25 per cent.

Around 24.5 per cent of adults in the UK are obese, compared to 7.1 per cent in France, 8.2 per cent in Italy, 13.4 per cent in Greece and 15.2 per cent in Portugal.

Described as a "public health disaster zone", the researchers are urging for highly-processed foods to be made less available and affordable via taxes.