More Urban Kids Have Food Allergies
By Dana Shultz for Diets In Review
Food allergies are becoming increasingly common in our society with floods of children and adults discovering they have a food allergy or intolerance they never even knew existed. Just last week I was talking with two of my friends who’d both been given a similar diagnosis and were forced to go completely gluten-free. But while we know these types of allergies are becoming more common, few people think to wonder why as well as if there’s a rhyme and reason to whom they affect.
A new study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics has presented some interesting new findings that suggest food allergies strike more often in certain areas than others, specifically when it comes to more densely-populated areas.
The study’s aim was to get a snapshot of the distribution of children’s food allergies in the U.S. to better determine where most sufferers are and what they have in common. Food allergies have become a growing and serious problem in our country affecting more than 8 percent of children in the U.S. This rate has grown by at least 18 percent in the last 10 years, and perhaps more concerning is that 40 percent of children suffering from food allergies have reported a history of severe reactions ranging from unstable blood pressure to anaphylactic shock.
To gather the data, researchers issued a randomized survey between June 2009 and February 2010 to adults with at least one child younger than 18 years old. Of the more than 40,000 participants who responded, researchers asked questions (developed by pediatricians, pediatric allergists and health service researchers) to gauge the number of child food allergies there were, including the “date of onset, method of diagnoses, and reaction history for each allergen.”
Scientists believed this detailed analysis of children’s food allergies would lend some insight into how allergies have dispersed throughout the U.S. and why.
Data revealed that the odds of food allergies were significantly higher in more densely-populated areas as compared to rural areas and small towns. Rates varied significantly from almost 10 percent prevalence in urban centers to only 6 percent in rural areas. The study also found that the most common food allergy was for peanuts, and milk and soy were two of the most consistent allergies throughout the various demographic areas.
One explanation for a higher prevalence of food allergies in urban areas is that exposure to certain “microbial agents’” or agitants earlier in life may somehow protect a child from developing food allergies later in life. Kind of the same argument for people who use sanitizers too much on their hands and become more susceptible to getting sick as it weakens their immune system. Either way, the association between food allergy prevalence steadily rose as population density rose as well, which makes it clear rural kids are far less likely to suffer from an allergies than their city-dwelling counterparts.
source: Scientific American