Hunger and lack of food could make children and adults more vulnerable to chronic diseases like asthma, according to US researchers.

The researchers came to the conclusion after analysing data from a Canadian survey comprising 5,809 children aged between 10 to 15 years and 3,333 youth aged between 16 to 21 years and conducted from 1994 through to 2005.

The study group found that approximately 3.3 percent of children and 3.9 percent of youth experienced hunger at some point and 1.1 percent of children and 1.4 percent of sample went hungry on two or more occasions during that period.

Among this group, 13.5 percent children and 28.6 percent youth reported poor health, in the final round of the survey. As many as 32.9 percent of the children and 47.3 percent of the youth who had gone hungry were shown to be in poor health, compared with 12.8 percent of children and 27.9 percent of youth who had not.

Also, the youth who went hungry more than once during the survey were found to be at an increased risk of asthma and other chronic illnesses, the researchers found.

"The mechanism by which childhood hunger negatively affects health is not well understood," the researchers wrote in their report. "Food insecurity has been associated with emotional and psychological stress among children, which could exert a negative effect on general health and contribute to heightened risk of chronic diseases."

Evidently "hunger is a serious risk factor for long-term poor health among children and youth, pointing to the relevance of severe food insecurity as an identifiable marker of vulnerability," said the report authored by Sharon Kirkpatrick, of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, at the time of the study and now at the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Bethesda.

About 15 percent of American households were affected by food insecurity in 2008, the researchers said while defining food security as running out of food or lacking the money to buy food. This represented an increase from 11 percent recorded in 2007, the researchers say in the study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.