ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.—Food allergies in children are gradually increasing, but in black children those numbers may be doubling, according to a study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
"Our research found a striking food allergy trend that needs to be further evaluated to discover the cause," said Corinne Keet, M.D., MS, lead study author and assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University. "Although African Americans generally have higher levels of IgE, the antibody the immune system creates more of when one has an allergy, it is only recently that they have reported food allergy more frequently than white children. Whether the observed increase is due to better recognition of food allergy or is related to environmental changes remains an open question."
From 1988 to 2011, researchers analyzed 452,237 children discovering that food allergy increased among black children at a rate of 2.1% per decade, 1.2% among Hispanic children and 1% among white children.
"It is important to note this increase was in self-reported allergy," said Keet. "Many of these children did not receive a proper food allergy diagnosis from an allergist. Other conditions such as food intolerance can often be mistaken for an allergy, because not all symptoms associated with foods are caused by food allergy."
Some children may outgrow their food allergies, while others might have to deal with this lifelong condition.
"Those allergic to milk, egg, soy, and wheat are more likely to tolerate these allergens over time, than those allergic to peanuts and tree nuts," said allergist Wesley Burks, M.D., lead study author and ACAAI fellow. "No single test alone can predict eventual food tolerance, but when patients are under the regular care of a board-certified allergist they can be re-evaluated and tested in different ways."
A recent study showed that children between the ages of 7 and 16 years old who were given a daily dose of peanut proteins over a four to six month period trained their bodies to tolerate the equivalence of eating at least five peanuts a day.