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Children, males and blacks are at increased risk for food allergies
Date:10/3/2010

A new study estimates that 2.5 percent of the United States population, or about 7.6 million Americans, have food allergies. Food allergy rates were found to be higher for children, non-Hispanic blacks, and males, according to the researchers. The odds of male black children having food allergies were 4.4 times higher than others in the general population.

The research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and appears in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, is the first to use a nationally representative sample, as well as specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) or antibody levels to quantify allergic sensitization to common foods, including peanuts, milk, eggs, and shrimp. The hallmark of food allergy is production of IgE antibodies to a specific food protein. Once IgE antibody is made, further exposure to the food triggers an allergic response. IgE levels are often high in people with allergies.

"This study is very comprehensive in its scope. It is the first study to use specific blood serum levels and look at food allergies across the whole life spectrum, from young children aged 1 to 5, to adults 60 and older," said Darryl Zeldin, M.D., acting clinical director at the NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and senior author on the paper. "This research has helped us identify some high risk populations for food allergies." In addition to the identification of race, ethnicity, gender, and age as risk factors for food allergies, the researchers also found an association between food allergy and severe asthma.

Food allergy rates were highest (4.2 percent) for children 1 to 5 years. The lowest rates (1.3 percent) were found in adults over the age of 60. The prevalence of peanut allergies in children aged 1 to 5 was 1.8 percent and in children aged 6 to19, it was 2.7 percent. In adults, the rate was 0.3 percent.

The odds of patients with asthma and food allergies experi
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Contact: Robin Mackar
rmackar@niehs.nih.gov
919-541-0073
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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