A possible link between obesity and allergies in children

A study published in the May issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that obese children and adolescents are at increased risk of having some kind of allergy, especially to a food. The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), both parts of the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers analysed data from 4,111 children and young adults aged 2 - 19 years of age. They looked at total and allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) or antibody levels to a large panel of indoor, outdoor and food allergens, body weight, and responses to a questionnaire about diagnoses of hay fever, eczema, and allergies. Obesity was defined as being in the 95th percentile of the body mass index for the child's age. The researchers found the IgE levels were higher among children who were obese or overweight. Obese children were about 26% more likely to have allergies than children of normal weight.

The signal for allergies seemed to be coming mostly from food allergies and the rate of having a food allergy was 59% for obese children. However, while the results from the study are interesting, the authors point out, they do not prove that obesity causes allergies. More research is needed to further investigate this potential link.

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First published in May 2009

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