Why black children may be more likely to develop food allergies

Dr Rajesh Kumar and colleagues at Northwestern Medical School in the US have carried out a study investigating whether African American ethnicity affects children’s risk of allergy to certain foods. Past research has shown that African-American children have a higher risk of asthma. The scientists used a multi-ethnic database of 1104 children, determining race by the children’s mothers' self-report of race, and also by checking the distribution of 150 genetic markers in their blood which track ancestry. This is because populations who describe themselves as one race may have ancestors from different continental groups.

The children on the database participated in check ups to measure antibodies to egg white, cow’s milk, peanut, soy, shrimp, walnut, wheat and cod at 6 months, and then 1, 2, 4 and 6 years old.

The report, published in the journal Paediatrics, shows that the children of mothers who self reported as black were 2.5 times more likely to be sensitive to all the foods tested, especially peanut, than were white children. When the scientists looked at the genetic markers for ancestry, they found that for every 10% increment in African ancestry, children were 7% more likely to have antibodies to the allergy-causing foods than white children.

Kumar says there is an increased risk of food sensitization among black children, and that this study is beginning to explore why this is so. He stresses that the study does not suggest that children with more African ancestry are more likely to develop food or peanut allergy, but simply that there are links between ancestry and levels of antibodies more likely to generate a reaction.

Source: Paediatrics

More research on infants and children

First Published in September 2011

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